VOLUNTEERS working with Stourbridge’s award-winning Side by Side theatre group have received the Royal seal of approval.

A team of 44 dedicated helpers, who work behind the scenes to support the group of actors with learning disabilities, scooped the Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service - the equivalent of an MBE.

In honour of their efforts - the Queen’s Deputy Lieutenant, Peter Tomlinson, presented the hard-working volunteers with a certificate signed by the Queen and a commemorative crystal at Stourbridge Lawn Tennis and Squash Club, Norton, yesterday (Sunday July 28).

The event was attended by deputy mayor of Dudley - councillor Margaret Aston, her consort cllr Adam Aston, and chairman of Dudley Arts Council - Lindsay Newton, who nominated the group.

Susan Wallin, artistic director and group founder, said the award was a major achievement because it showed how highly the volunteers were valued and recognised nationally.

She added: “The actors themselves receive many accolades and win many trophies, but this award is for the people who make that possible with their dedicated work behind the scenes.”

The company, which rehearses twice a week at Stourbridge’s New Road Methodist Church, is in the process of expanding to give more opportunities to people with learning disabilities who want to explore their artistic potential through the performing arts.

It is hoped the award will encourage more volunteers to join them, particularly those with IT and promotion skills.

Anyone interested in getting involved can visit www.sidebysidetheatrecompanystourbridge.co.uk