THEATRE trust chairman Julie Breckon has been overwhelmed by the response to an appeal fund set up after an arson attack at The Little Theatre in Birkenhead overnight last night.

The fire destroyed most of the props department at The Little Theatre in Grange Road West, but it could have been far worse had it not been for a quick-thinking resident.

A woman who lives near the theatre called the fire service after hearing an alarm and smelling smoke, and firefighters were able to restrict the fire to a props room and corridor.

After visiting the theatre to see the extent of the damage Julie set up an appeal fund on justgiving to ask for donations to cover any uninsured losses the trust may have because of the fire.

She set a target of £500, which has been smashed as donations flood in, with the total standing at £4,050.

The theatre is home to the Carlton Players, which has performed at the theatre since the 1950s, and Julie is chairman of the Carlton Little Theatre Trust.

She said: “A resident who lives nearby smelled smoke and heard an alarm at 4.30am, so went out to take a look and contacted the fire brigade.

“Thankfully because she called them so early the damage is nowhere near as severe as it could have been.

“We have lost pretty much the contents of our props department, but our auditorium, other than the smell of smoke, is relatively unscathed.

“The fire brigade said if it had been half an hour later the whole place could have gone up.

“We also have the damage to the front window, which was broken by the person who had broken in order to get out.

“When I went down there today I didn’t know the extent of the damage, and it was upsetting to see.

“We are a charitable trust, staffed pretty much entirely by volunteers.

“The things which were damaged we are not going to be able to replace easily because they are things old members have donated - it’s heart-breaking to see.

“The theatre means so much to our members and the community.

“At the moment we don’t know the extent of the damage, and the appeal fund will cover any uninsured losses we have.

“The fire has gone into a corridor where we store a lot of our paintings, which are irreplaceable."

She thanked the community for the ‘outpouring of support,’ which she said had been ‘phenomenal’.

She added: “I set up the justgiving page to give people an option to donate if they could, and couldn’t have expected that we would even reach the £500 target.”