As we celebrate our 40th birthday we are asking people - why do YOU love Lighthouse?
Today, Lighthouse Steward Cindy Rumley tells us about her long history of working at the arts centre and why she would find it impossible to work anywhere else ....


"I’ve always had a thing about theatre that goes back to when my parents ran a guesthouse in Southsea and used to take in a lot of actors when they were on tour. We used to get a lot of complimentary tickets and if the shows were suitable I’d get taken along so my love of theatre goes back to then.

Years later I was looking for a job I could do after my husband came home from work to look after the children and saw a job advertised at Poole Arts Centre. I applied a couple of weeks later and wrote a letter apologising for the delay only my father-in-law had died. They were so impressed by my enthusiasm I was asked for an interview and although the position I’d applied for had been filled I was offered a job as usherette. That was 32 years ago and I’ve been here ever since.

They changed our job title after the first refurbishment so I was the first Head Host at Lighthouse, then I went on stage door for three years, but now I’m back where I belong in front of house, although we’re called stewards now.

I love working here, it’s a lovely environment and the vast majority of people you meet are lovely as well. People come here to enjoy themselves, whether they’re in the audience or onstage and it’s our job to make sure they do. If everyone is happy then so are we.

I started taking dress rehearsal photos of the pantomime performers in 1992 and kept that up until the 2006-2007 season, then had a three-year gap and started again in 2010. It was quite informal but I used to make up little 6-by-4 inch prints for performers and put them in an album and do bigger prints for those who wanted them.

On stage door I used to pluck up the courage to ask some of the performers for photos. I got a lovely one of Timothy West and Prunella Scales with her resting her head of his shoulder as they waited for the taxi I’d called them to arrive. It was late and I had to call again.

The most wonderful chap I met was Richard Todd. I’d fallen in love with him at the age of ten – I can’t remember if it was Robin Hood or The Sword and The Rose – but in my mind he was a Hollywood star and there was no way I’d ever meet him. So to find he was coming to Poole really threw me.

The day I met him I’d been called over to ask for directions and noticed him out of the corner of my eye. I called out and asked if he’d mind waiting just a moment. He was waiting for a taxi so he was fine and then I asked him for a photo.

I didn’t see him again during the week’s run but I left him a photo in his pigeonhole backstage and he wrote me a lovely letter to thank me. He was a real gentleman, very classy.

Matthew Kelly was like that as well, so was Tracey Childs – I don’t know how but they always remembered your name."

"I photographed the Queen when she came to reopen Lighthouse. I only had my small camera so got a quick snap as she came down the stairs and was so excited that I missed Prince Philip!

I also met Princess Diana when she came. The staff had been asked to come in and populate the building so I was at the main bar when she came up the stairs. She looked over and said, “So, is this a normal Saturday afternoon for you then?”

The one that got away? David Essex – he kept sneaking out by the wrong door and I never did get his photo.

I have so many wonderful memories of working here but perhaps the one that stands out is the night the BDH factory caught fire. People were evacuated from their homes and many of them were sent up to the Arts Centre. They arrived clutching their dogs and cats and parrots, all sorts of things, looking quite confused and worried.

We had the New Vic Theatre of London here that week in a production of The Three Musketeers. Everyone was asked if we could stay late to help the residents and when it became clear we were in for the night, around midnight the company put on a performance of the show.

There was one old lady sat on the usher’s seat with her dog who was very worried and in one of the sword fights the dog got really upset so when they finished the fight the actors did a grand bow to the dog.

As everyone left another woman came up to me to thank us and said it was the most wonderful thing she’d seen because she could never have afforded to see it otherwise.

So much has changed over the years at Lighthouse – and I think I must have worn every incarnation of the uniform – working here has quite spoiled me for working anywhere else, I love it.

It’s funny the building celebrated its 40th anniversary on 1 April as my husband Keith and I were meant to be married on 1 April 1978 but we had to wait a week so our ruby anniversary is on 8 April."

Published 12 June 2018