Family will turn old Peak District chapel into community arts venue with the help of Mick Peat Bursary Award

A well-loved Derbyshire based family theatre company has been given a cash boost towards the development of a community arts venue in the Peak District.

Thursday, 4th November 2021, 5:30 am
Updated Thursday, 4th November 2021, 10:12 am
Andy Barrow, Elli Mackenzie and their children Charlie and Felix are renovating an old chapel at Lea to become a community arts venue and base for their Oddsocks Productions theatre company.
Andy Barrow, Elli Mackenzie and their children Charlie and Felix are renovating an old chapel at Lea to become a community arts venue and base for their Oddsocks Productions theatre company.

Oddsocks Productions has been named as the first recipient of the Mick Peat Drystone Bursary.

Drystone Arts is a not-for-profit initiative set up to celebrate the county through creativity, heritage and sharing. The organisation’s president, Mick Peat passed away in 2020 and the remaining members set up a bursary in his name.

The award of £2,500 will help the theatre company with its plan to transform a former chapel in the Peak District into a base for the arts.

Mick Peat's name is immortalised in the family's renovation of the chapel at Lea.

Oddsocks Productions have been based in Derbyshire for the 23 years and tour nationally with their unique adaptations of Shakespeare and other classic literature.

The pandemic hit and the company was facing an uncertain future. The familly took a decision to sell their home and invest in a disused chapel in Lea.

Creative producer Elli Mackenzie said: “We were struggling to see how we could continue to pay our mortgage going forward and if work did pick up, we needed our own rehearsal space to ensure that we could keep it Covid safe for our company members. We bid for the chapel, online as it was during lockdown, which was a nerve-wracking hour to go through, and we got it!’

The Oddsocks family, consisting of Elli, dad Andy Barrow and their children, musician Felix and actor and artist Charlie plan to renovate the chapel, use it as their base and share it with the community and other arts organisations for use as a rehearsal and performance space for theatre, music, the visual arts and heritage events.

Elli said: “Mick was a builder by trade and the visual representation of the award is a trowel on a plaque made from local willow. We felt it appropriate to use the trowel to mend the last ridge tile on the chapel roof which we have been repairing, so that’s what we did. We have also carved Mick’s name into the cement too as a mark of respect. After all the motto on the award says “Building His Legacy.”

The chapel came with a small cottage attached, which the family are hoping to eventually make into their home. Meanwhile, a school room which links the cottage to the chapel is being used as an office, kitchen and living room while the family do what they can to repair the chapel and make it dry.

Elli said: “We shall use the financial donation wisely but most importantly, work with Drystone Arts to help bring communities together through the arts,” she added.

The award was presented to the family by acclaimed songwriter John Tams, artistic director of Drystone Arts, at a concert in Mick’s memory.

Ripley-born Mick was one of the best-known presenters on BBC Radio Derby, where he presented Folkwaves for 25 years. As a promoter he helped to establish Derby Folk Festival.

Mick’s musical career began at Alfreton’s Upstairs Club and he later performed with The Ripley Wayfarers for 25 years.

He was instrumental in the launch of The Derbyshire Volunteers, a group of musicians set up by John Tams to raise money for charity following the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004 which continues to raise funds for good causes.