May 10 2011 By Siba Matti
Maurice and Rita, Local Heroes
A COUPLE with 'endless enthusiasm' who have spent more than 20 years volunteering for a popular theatre in Ickenham have been nominated for a Local Hero award.
Maurice Ray, 79, and his wife, Rita, 75, have been put forward for the Community Hero category of the annual competition, run jointly by the Uxbridge Gazette and Leader Series, and Uxbridge College.
Each of the category winners – including Star Carer; Courageous Citizen; Outstanding Young Person and Fabulous Fundraiser - will pocket £200 and a trophy, while the overall Hero of Hillingdon will receive an amazing £500.
Pensioners Maurice and Rita, who have two children and one grandson, have been working tirelessly for the Compass Theatre, in Glebe Avenue, since 1990.
The theatre, which is owned and run by Hillingdon Council, relies on the goodwill of volunteers to maintain its services.
Maurice told the Gazette: "At the time we belonged to Aquarius drama group, which performed at the Beck Theatre in Hayes, before moving to the Compass.
"One of the volunteers asked if we might like to get involved as well, and the rest is history!"
The couple, who live in The Squirrels, Pinner, have become familiar faces to hundreds of visitors through managing the theatre's front of house, including the coffee bar and box office.
Rita, a former ballet dancer, has also put her wealth of experience as a wardrobe mistress to good use in the theatre's costume department.
In 1991, the drama-loving duo, together with two friends, established Murder Most Fun, a murder mystery group which has since hosted more than 20 evenings at the Compass, raising hundreds of pounds.
Meanwhile, Maurice was also chairman of the Compass Management Steering Committee for 11 years, as well as heading the monthly user forum and fundraising sub-committees.
Their efforts generated the necessary cash for tables and chairs in the theatre's cafe bar; new carpet throughout the foyer; bar coolers and a glass washer.
As if that wasn't enough, the couple are also devoted to maintaining Ickenham Hall, a Grade II listed Georgian mansion house which adjoins the Compass, and its gardens.
In 2009, the pair were among a number of volunteers to form Friends of Ickenham Hall. They are committed to raising funds for and overseeing conservation and restoration projects at the historic property.
Maurice, a former director of an advertising agency, said: "The gardens had fallen into disrepair so Rita and I came up with a plan to redesign and organise the front, choosing plants the Georgians would have used. We are now focused on repeating this exercise in the back gardens.
"We also raised the money to restore two 18th century fireplaces, and in June we hope to repair four out of nine front windows."
So why do the couple give up their time so willingly to help boost the Compass' coffers?
Maurice explained: "It's quite simple really – my wife has all her life, from the age of three, been involved in drama or dancing, and I began performing in plays when I was at school, so our passion for theatre knows no bounds.
"The Compass needs volunteers and we just want to help it continue to provide what is a extremely valuable service in the community.
"We have so many happy memories and we have made an amazing number of friends, we just love being there.
"I have always said I wanted to be a teenager when I grow up and we have no intention of stopping! It's something that keeps us going.
"If we did win the award, we would give the prize money to the Compass, which is in need of any money we can drum up."
Maurice and Rita were nominated for a Local Hero award by Julia Reason, front of house manager at the Compass.
Ms Reason said: "Compass Theatre are indebted to Maurice and Rita for all they do as volunteers and the passion they feel for the theatre.
"Ickenham Hall would have probably fallen apart by now if it hadn't been for them.
"Their energy and enthusiasm is endless and we can't thank them enough for all their hard work."
An ongoing book sale takes place in the foyer at the Compass and a jazz concert will be held in Ickenham Hall gardens on July 3. For further information and to find out more about fundraising and volunteering at the theatre, call 01895 673200 or visit www.compasstheatre.co.uk
Who is your Local Hero? Nominate them by filling in the nomination form in the Gazette or online at www.uxbridgegazette.co.uk/heroes. Alternatively email Gazette reporter Siba Matti at firstname.lastname@example.org The deadline is Friday, May 27.