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Eastbourne: unusual role for seaside theatre chaplain

Praying with Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket and his wife is just one of the highlights from an East Sussex man’s unusual chaplaincy role ...

Praying with Irish comedian Jimmy Cricket and his wife is just one of the highlights from an East Sussex man’s unusual chaplaincy role.

Evangelist Ray Dadswell is the chaplain at four theatres in Eastbourne where he regularly visits the staff, backstage workers, performers and audience members to chat and listen to their needs.

As part of his role Ray is often asked backstage to talk to the performers, and his most recent invite came from the famous comedian Jimmy Cricket who welcomed lunch at Ray’s house and a chance for prayer.

Ray said: “I knew Jimmy had a faith background, so I invited him for lunch. We talked about his career, his family and about his contact with local churches. He let me pray with him and his wife May and also for the show he is involved in and we all enjoyed the fellowship.”

Jimmy said: “Theatre chaplains do wonderful work. They are a confidante in the crazy world of show business. They bring an air of spiritual serenity. Without meddling, they are there to sooth ruffled tempers and always with an arm outstretched to welcome and console people and give divine guidance.”

Ray, who has worked with Christian charity Counties for 27 years, visits the Hippodrome, Devonshire Park, Winter Garden and Congress Theatres every week to chat and listen to people.

Ray continued: “Most people know me now when I pop in and it’s great to get to know people and be there for them. I take an interest in people’s lives and share my faith when asked. Sometimes people ask for details on local churches. One lady asked if I could take a funeral for her mother who had just passed away. The work varies greatly.

“When speaking to theatregoers many people are surprised to find out the theatre has a chaplain. We certainly are a rare breed but wherever people gather there is always a need for pastoral care and support.”

Ray’s love for the theatre began as a teenager. After he left school he had to choose between church and the theatre as a long-term career.
Ray explained: ‘I had a keen interest in both. I chose to go into Christian work following Bible College, spending 13 years in Thailand, and now some 27 years with Counties. But it has all come full circle, as I have the position as chaplain to Eastbourne theatres! The Lord is very gracious and no man's debtor.’

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