A FORMER Adver reporter who covered the early days of the Wyvern Theatre looked back fondly on the beginnings of an iconic Swindon venue.

As the cultural landmark celebrates its 50th anniversary, David Ward recalled what it was like to work here and live just down the street on Plymouth Road while it was being planned, built and opened.

The £750,000 addition to our town centre got off to an eventful start as the architect got stuck in his own lift and cut his finger, bleeding all over the theatre manager's office on opening night.

David popped in to catch a show two or three times a week and reviewed all sorts of attractions - from panto to plays, Indian dance to experimental theatre, ballet to big band - and interviewed the actors.

The 75-year-old said: "The whole project was very exciting and it had an interesting design so I muscled in and followed its progress, writing stories about it all the time.

"In retrospect, it was a very brave move by the council to begin it and it was well-supported by Arts Council England.

"The tension for me was between desperately wanting it to succeed and trying to be objective and grumpy when things did not go well.

"I got in such trouble with some of the reviews but it was an eye-opener for me, as I was a bit of a snob, to see people respond with sheer joy to all sorts of performances."

When he called the plot of Dick Whittington "daft", angry parents of a dance school class called him non-stop and turned up at the office to reprimand him after mistaking the mockery as an insult aimed at their children.

One Scouse actor said he wanted to come after David "with a meat cleaver" after his attempt at a Wiltshire accent in a play about the railways was panned.

A highlight of the young journo's career as a critic came when he shared a bottle of wine with Dame Diana Rigg as she stopped off in Swindon while touring a play.

David added: "It was great fun, I was very fond of the theatre and I loved my time on a local paper.

"It opened with a mixed programme. The best was an inventive production of MacBeth by Peter Coe with an all-black cast set in what is now Zimbabwe. There was a small black box theatre on the top floor which Brian Chitty let me programme as long as each group cost less than £50, which was fun."

After three-and-a-half years at the Adver, David left in 1973 and worked for the Guardian in Manchester for 33 years following a brief spell at a Newcastle paper.

In 2008, he ended up working for a theatre as a copywriter and 'performed' on stage for one night only - as a corpse in a murder mystery.