British Museum partners regionals on new exhibition plan

British Museum partners regionals on new exhibition plan

The British Museum is collaborating with regional museums and galleries on an exhibition of prints and drawings from the BM’s collection.

V&A to get ‘fly on wall’ treatment

V&A to get ‘fly on wall’ treatment

The Victoria & Albert Museum is allowing BBC cameras into its vaults and workshops for a six-part documentary, Secrets of the Museum.

Achates ambassadors scheme to build new funding structure

Achates ambassadors scheme to build new funding structure

Achates Philanthropy, set up to help arts organisations raise funds from private sources, has launched a bursary scheme to train fundraisers.

ACE plans £2.25m Fringe performance showcase

ACE plans £2.25m Fringe performance showcase

A new £2.25m Edinburgh Fringe performing arts showcase has been announced today by Arts Council England, focussing on theatre, dance and circus.

Shakespeare’s small Shoreditch world

Shakespeare’s small Shoreditch world

Shakespeare’s London during his early creative life in the capital since arriving in about 1592 was confined to a few square meters of Shoreditch.

Export block on £9.5m key Millais

Export block on £9.5m key Millais

The export of a painting by John Everett Millais has been halted to allow a UK buyer to raise £9.5m to keep it in the UK on public display.

New Affordable Art Fair UK boss

New Affordable Art Fair UK boss

Elizabeth Dellert, exhibition services manager at Frieze Masters since 2015, is the new UK director of the Affordable Art Fair.

Media magnate chairs British Council

Media magnate chairs British Council

The advertising and media entrepreneur Stevie Spring has been appointed chair of the British Council by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, it was announced today. She succeeds Christopher Rodrigues.

Secrets of Leonardo’s Virgin

Secrets of Leonardo’s Virgin

The latest imaging technology has revealed details of previous attempts before Leonardo finalised his composition of one of the National Gallery’s most popular paintings, The Virgin of the Rocks.

Auntie's year of a good read…

Auntie's year of a good read…

The BBC is committing airtime across all its media to literature for a year, with partnerships with libraries and reading groups across the country.

Strike planned at Science Museum

Strike planned at Science Museum

Ballot on industrial action at Museum of London too

Call for London slavery museum

Call for London slavery museum

A call for a London slavery museum by the Fabian Society has been supported by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan.

NMS’s Rintoul to stand down

NMS’s Rintoul to stand down

The director of National Museums Scotland, Gordon Rintoul, is to stand down after 18 transforming years in the job.

TAITMAIL Clutching the straws in the wind

TAITMAIL Clutching the straws in the wind

By Patrick Kelly

As newly elected local councils get down to work, arts organisations find themselves having to negotiate a new set of relationships with freshly mandated politicians, many of whom will display utter ignorance of the value of arts to their communities.

Major boost for Cromwell Museum

Major boost for Cromwell Museum

Huntingdon’s Cromwell Museum is to get a £160,000 revamp.

Fears over future of Merthyr’s Redhouse

Fears over future of Merthyr’s Redhouse

Artists accuse managers of ‘running venue down’

£10m bid to save late Turner

£10m bid to save late Turner

An export stop has been put on one of J M W Turner’s most famous watercolours, The Dark Rigi.

Barbican artistic director stands down

Barbican artistic director stands down

Louise Jeffreys, artistic director of the Barbican Centre since 2010, has announced that she is to leave at the end of this year.

TAITMAIL Together apart – our black theatre women

TAITMAIL Together apart – our black theatre women

There are those in the malevolent social atmosphere we have built around us who would be suspicious of something called Black Womxn in Theatre. 

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

THE ART OF PHOTOJOURNALISM Image of the month

More by luck than judgement: Diana, Princess of Wales, Cornwall, May 12th, 1993, by Richard Lappas

Alan Sparrow introduces this month’s image

Sharing the garden of art

Sharing the garden of art

AI Profile: Laura Sillars, director, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art

Gentle art to dispel violent myths

Gentle art to dispel violent myths

A tent town is growing today on a farm in Hampshire, big enough to accommodate the 35,000 people and more who will come from 100 different countries for this weekend. Many are coming to learn the arts of handwriting.

The black queens of our theatre

The black queens of our theatre

This image is a moment of history, a salute to the achievements of black women in British theatre. “It’s our celebration, putting a ribbon around it” says Stella Kanu.

Milton Keynes Stables fight on to survive

Milton Keynes Stables fight on to survive

The Stables, the Milton Keynes music venue built by Johnny Dankworth and Cleo Laine and opened in 2000, is appealing to the local planning authority to refuse permission to a new development that could destroy it.

Re-entering the stage

Patrick Kelly reports on the reopening of one of the UK’s most venerable theatres

 The title of Britain’s oldest theatre is a contested one – but there’s no doubt that the Theatre Royal in York, which has been around since 1744, occupies a special place in the city’s heart. How else could you explain the way in which regular bulletins on the the- atre’s year-long refurbishment were awaited by theatregoers like anxious relatives at a hospital bedside? Will it reopen in time for the Christmas panto? What will be discovered un- derneath the Georgian façade or the Victorian stage? Will the £6m resto- ration project do justice to this iconic part of the city’s historical landscape?

In the end, the saga carried on for 406 days, reported the local paper, which was keeping count, and on April 22, York’s much loved theatre reopened officially with a clever adaptation of Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited. And the building looks fabulous.

The redevelopment, paid for by grants from Arts Council England, York City Council and a host of other donors, stemmed from an urgent need for repairs to a building which had largely been untouched for 50 years. Major changes were needed to the roof, to the auditorium and to the backstage facilities. But there was also a need, says YTR chair Ann Green, to create a building which helps boost the commercial income of the theatre at a time when public finances were constrained. This required a refur- bishment which would match the “audacity and ambition” of the playhouses which had occupied the site for nearly 300 years.

Help came in the form of the York Conservation Trust (see box) which negotiated a £1 handover of the building from a cash-strapped city council and provided the £2m needed for the completely new roof, and a third of the £6m budget.

Access throughout has been im- proved, with a spacious open plan foyer replacing the cramped box office, a new modular stage, better sightlines in the auditorium and much improved disabled facilities, from toilets to seats, throughout the building. A brand new roof makes the best use of the lightwells that had been constructed in 1967 when the theatre added a new entrance area. That concrete and glass extension, award-winning and now Grade II* listed like the Victorian audito- rium, now has a new lift giving full disabled access, a new restaurant, doubled cafe and bar space, many new toilets, restored rooflights and a colour changing lighting scheme. Much of the extra space has come from enclosing the Victorian gothic colonnade with glass, and creating an intimate café/bistro layout.

Inevitably, in a city where his- tory pokes through on every street corner, on a site which originally housed a medieval hospital, archae- ology was going to be built into the timetable. But the discovery of an ancient cobbled street and medieval well beneath the main stage meant that even the best laid plans were upended.

As a team from York Archaeo- logical Trust dug in for the long haul, the money-spinning Christmas panto had to be hastily rescheduled in the National Railway Museum. In York, this is no easy matter as traditional audiences, not to mention panto producer and veteran dame, Berwick Kaler, believe their antics are as embedded in the proscenium stage as the plasterwork in the boxes. But like the hardened profession- als they are, Wilson, artistic director Damian Cruden and Kaler moved Dick Whittington and his Meerkat to the 1,000 seater temporary theatre originally built for a touring production of The Railway Children, a move which prompted a handful of people to cancel, but ended up selling more seats than ever.

“When you shut a theatre that hasn’t been closed in 270 years you know that there is a lot at stake” said lead architect Angus Morrogh-Ryan, from De Matos Ryan Architects. “When you’re dealing with a building which is part medieval, part Georgian, part Victorian and part 1960s there is even more that could go wrong.

Theatre Royal chief executive Liz Wilson admits that the discovery of an original floor surface which had sur- vived for more than 800 years was not the best news for a theatre executive attempting to ensure a programme got started on time, but it demonstrated just how much the theatre’s story was part of York’s. “The Theatre Royal is much more than a theatre” she said. “It’s a place where people meet, learn and explore.”

Changes to the stage to a modular form will improve flexibility, enabling traps and level changes to be provided with ease. It will also allow YTR to attract dance companies which were turned off by the previous raked stage. “This season will see a performance from Birmingham Royal Ballet and, in future, will give us more options for the programme”.

The medieval well remains intact and parts of the street have been incor- porated into the terrazzo floor of the café, while the stone arch and tower built into the back wall of the stage, the remains of a Georgian garden folly, will feature in backstage tours. But for £25 tickets theatregoers can get a seat- ing either in the wings or from high above the stage on the fly floor – easily the best vantage point to see not only the show, but the remarkable building in which it’s taking place.

 

THE YORK CONSERVATION TRUST

The York Conservation Trust is a charity dedicated to preserving the built heritage of the city. It was formed by former city mayor Dr John Bowes Morrell and his brother Cuthbert in 1945. The trust buys and restores significant historical buildings in the city and then makes them available to rent. it now owns and runs over 85 buildings, consisting of 79 residential and 66 commercial lets. “Restoration and conservation has to be balanced with the need to put the building to its best use, both from the point of view of its tenants and in the life of the city” says the trust’s chair Philip Thake.

 

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