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  • Writer's pictureStanford Lake College

End of an era as the Barnyard is taken down

It is with great sadness that Stanford Lake College announces the deconstruction of its Barnyard Theatre. Despite every best effort having exhausted all available avenues, the school has been unable to obtain a fire safety certificate for the building, leaving the only option being for it to be taken down. The Barnyard has been a wonderful focal point of the school for the last 20 years and countless plays, showcase evenings, assemblies and valediction services have been held within its wooden walls.

The idea to build a theatre came after Haenertsburg hosted a packed-out Autumn Festival in 1999, which saw the likes of the National Symphony Orchestra perform. At the time, Stanford Lake College (or Stanford College as it was then known) did not have a hall and Howard Blight as the Chairman of the school had the vision of building a multi-purpose hall on the campus. Coincidentally, around this time, he was invited to the opening of the Barnyard Theatre in White River and made acquaintance with a gentleman called Louis Möller, the franchiser of the Barnyard Theatre concept. The following day, Howard and Rudi Schoeman flew Louis to Stanford to discuss the viability of such a project.

The Barnyard Theatre concept was started in 1996 by Louis and Sybil Möller on their dairy farm just outside Plettenberg Bay. Louis and Sybil had both been involved in the performing arts most of their lives, Louis as co-founder and producer of, amongst others, Carte Blanche, and Sybil Coetzee as a freelance actress and TV presenter. The concept was franchised and theatres were built in Mossel Bay and White River, with four planned for Gauteng at the time.

It was agreed that the Barnyard Theatre concept would be ideal to meet the needs of the Haenertsburg community as well as the school and soon pilot performances were held in a makeshift venue at the hangar at Stevens Lumber Mill. The performances, one in December 1999 and one in March 2000, were well supported with the “Full House” sign going up and people being turned away from the March performance.

The grand opening of the 330-seat Barnyard Lakeside Theatre, as it was known, took place in March 2001 with the interim Board of Directors being made up of Louis Möller, Pam Oberholzer, Jeanette Barnard, John Hudson, Rudi Schoeman and Howard Blight.

Many shows were held and famous artists graced the stage such as Bok van Blerk, Dozi, Nianell, Judy Page, Clint & Co., pianist and comedian Ian von Memerty. A big Afrikaans music festival was also held on the property which saw artists such as Valiant Swart, Gert Vlok Nel and Anton Goosen. The Barnyard also hosted shows like Roll Over Beethoven and Rock Around the Clock. In more recent times, Martin Bester performed in 2018 as part of his, “Vir die liefde” tour.

See the gallery below for photos of the dismantling progress:

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