Sinodun Players and Corn Exchange awarded Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service

The Corn Exchange in Wallingford and the Sinodun Players, resident company and owner of the theatre, have received the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service, the highest possible honour for voluntary groups in the UK.

The Players transformed the Corn Exchange from a derelict building into a “cornerstone of the community”. It has been showing plays and films to residents of Wallingford and the surrounding area for more than 40 years.

Members and volunteers at the theatre, which is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, were told today (Tuesday, 2nd June) about the award – which is made every year to mark the anniversary of the Queen’s coronation.

Gloria Wright, Chair of the Sinodun Players said: ‘We always knew our wonderful members and volunteers were brilliant, and I’m sure they already know how highly they are valued, but now all the hard work and commitment over the last 40 years has been officially recognised.’

The nomination process was carried out by Deputy Lieutenants for Oxfordshire Miranda Markham and Kate Tiller. Dr Tiller said in her report: ‘Wallingford Corn Exchange, home of the Sinodun Players Amateur Dramatic Society shows how a traditional local organisation can transform itself and develop into a key community asset for the 21st century.

She added: ‘Described by its users as “the heart of the community”, not only is it a cultural landmark but importantly it serves as a cross generational meeting hub where people of all backgrounds are welcome to both enjoy the experience as well as to volunteer their own unique skills.’

The group was nominated for the award by Lynda Atkins, a former Oxfordshire County Councillor. She said: ‘Without the Sinodun Players and its volunteers, the Grade II listed Corn Exchange would not exist as a community facility’.

Ed Vaizey, ex-MP for Wantage and Didcot and a former culture minister, gave his support as part of the submission and said: “The Sinodun Players, and the Corn Exchange theatre which they run, have been cornerstones of the community in Wallingford and the surrounding area for decades. As a result of their entirely voluntary efforts, Wallingford has an outstanding range of drama available”.

Professor Malcolm Airs, former conservation officer for South Oxfordshire also added his recommendation to the nomination: “As the local authority Conservation Officer at the time I was deeply impressed by the sensitive way that they carried out the conversion in a manner that retained its intrinsic historic character. Under their careful stewardship it has undergone a series of staged improvements to become a highly sophisticated venue.”

The Sinodun Players purchased the then-derelict Corn Exchange in 1976, converting it into a base for its theatre productions, a theatre and cinema. The building has been run as a successful venue since the end of 1978 when it was formally opened by the late Sir Peter Hall, founder of the Royal Shakespeare Company and former director of the National Theatre, who lived in Wallingford at that time.

The Sinodun Players and Corn Exchange Wallingford is one of 230 charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups to receive the award this year. The number of nominations remains high year on year, showing that the voluntary sector is thriving and full of innovative ideas to make life better for those around them.

The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service aims to recognise outstanding work by volunteer groups to benefit their local communities. It was created in 2002 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee.