THE winner of Big Brother 9, Cwmbran’s Rachel Rice has leant her support to The Congress Theatre’s plan for a £100,000 refurbishment.

In August, the manager of the Cwmbran theatre, Richard Williams, announced plans for the venue’s first major refurbishment since it opened in 1972 and he asked for the public’s support.

Now teaching full time, Miss Rice is best known for winning the television series Big Brother in 2008.

She said: “I hope the Congress raise the money, as to me it is a special place, not only because it is an amazing theatre, but due to the memories I and many other people have there. My first visit was when I was four and I won the Rosebud competition. After that I attended Woodland Players for years and also attended Rachel Hamilton’s drama group there for years.”

Public donations have started to trickle in and the appeal figure currently stands at £2,161. Barclays Bank has also donated £500 for staff to begin painting at the venue.

Miss Rice, who has had roles on TV, in films and represented South and North Wales in Miss Great Britain, added: “It is a special place and one I hold close to my heart. My acting experience started there and every time I go back, I always remember the experiences, memories and lifelong friends I made for life.

“I hope the money is raised so others can experience this wonderful theatre.”

The most expensive part of the refurbishment will be the new seating in the 312-seated space auditorium, which will cost £67,600. The foyer works will costs £7,800, while the toilet refurbishment is £12,800 and new fittings for the lounge and bar is £16,800.

The venue’s regular stage groups include the Cwmbran Woodland Players and the Congress Youth Theatre, as well as numerous dance schools.

Performers on its stage have included Jim Davidson, Max Boyce, psychic Colin Fry and Owen Money.

The theatre costs£160,000 a year to run, which is raised by volunteers.

To donate, call Richard Williams or Martyn Redwood on 01633 868239. You can also donate by text at CONG33 £5 to 70070 (just change the amount you want to give).