Carnival comes to Holland Park

Opera Holland Park is to welcome steel pan and calypso for three concerts in a partnership with Notting Hill Carnival.

Jane Austen returns to Bath – after 215 years

Jane Austen returns to Bath – after 215 years

The only accredited portrait of the novelist Jane Austen, by her sister, is being loaned to Bath, where she lived for five years.

Ros Kerslake to stand down as head of NHLF

Ros Kerslake to stand down as head of NHLF

 Ros Kerslake is to step down as CEO of the National Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of 2021 after five years.

Putting culture on the digital map

Putting culture on the digital map

The many cultural highlights of the West Midlands have been picked out on an interactive map of the arts scene, the first of its kind, to help rebuild the cultural infrastructure after the pandemic.

TAITMAIL   The community that wouldn’t let its museum die

TAITMAIL The community that wouldn’t let its museum die

All of this year’s Museum of the Year shortlist for the £100,000 prize are regional museums. “Our five finalists” said Jenny Waldman, Art Fund director and chair of the judges, “are all deeply embedded in their communities... They have each shown extraordinary innovation and resolve”. 

Rescued Pennine museum reopens, double the size

Rescued Pennine museum reopens, double the size

A museum that was rescued by its community reopens this weekend after a £2.2m refurbishment and expansion.

Painting Piccadilly

Painting Piccadilly

The Royal Academy this morning launched one of the largest public art takeovers London has ever seen.

Angharad Jones to lead New Perspectives

Angharad Jones to lead New Perspectives

Angharad Jones is to be the new artistic director of the East Midlands theatre company New Perspectives, after 15 years as joint artistic director of the award-winning Fifth Word, whgich she co-founded.

Regions will provide 2021 Museum of the Year

Regions will provide 2021 Museum of the Year

For the first time no London institution features in the shortlist for the Art Fund Museum of the Year Award, reflecting instead the resilience and innovation of regional museums and galleries during the year of the Covid pandemic.

Culture can drive economy’s recovery, report shows

Culture can drive economy’s recovery, report shows

The creative industries can drive the economy’s post-Covid recovery by contributing £132bn ia year n GVA (gross value added) - £28bn more than in 2020 - and creating 300,000 new jobs by 2025, according to new research details published today.

Cuts to higher education arts funding to go ahead

Cuts to higher education arts funding to go ahead

The government’s Office for Students has confirmed that the funding cuts to creative and performing arts subjects at high education level will go ahead, despite a plea directly to the prime minister by seven trade unions begging him to reverse the decision.

Theatre and unions unite to demand Covid insurance to stave off disaster

Theatre and unions unite to demand Covid insurance to stave off disaster

Theatre sector employers and trade unions have come together to demand an end to government equivocation over insurance against the impact on business of Covid-19.

Film producer Uzma Hasan to chair Bush

Film producer Uzma Hasan to chair Bush

The Bush Theatre has announced that the television and film producer Uzma Hasan is to be its new chair.

Artangel’s Lingwood and Morris to stand down

Artangel’s Lingwood and Morris to stand down

The co-directors of Artangel, the agency that over more than 30 years has changed the perception of public art, are to stand down.

Artists’ trail to save the lion

Artists’ trail to save the lion

Artists and performers are creating a trail of art installations through cities around the world to help save the African lion.

Mendes reveals new support plan for creative workers

Mendes reveals new support plan for creative workers

Oscar winning director Sir Sam Mendes today announced a new two year bursary to give longer term support to the creative workforce.

Amy Belson Lyric’s new executive director

Amy Belson Lyric’s new executive director

The Lyric Hammersmith’s director of communications has been promoted to be its new executive director.

Square Mile looks to art for recovery

Square Mile looks to art for recovery

Commerce and the City of London have gone into partnership to spark the financial centre’s recovery through culture.

Opera pioneer Vick dies aged 67

Opera pioneer Vick dies aged 67

Graham Vick, the pioneering founder of the Birmingham Opera Company who brought new and traditional opera into often unconventional venues to reveal new audiences, has died from Covid complications at the age of 67.

Belgrade’s top duo quit in restructure

Belgrade’s top duo quit in restructure

Joanna Reid and Hamish Glen, Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre, executive director and artistic director, are to step down after 18 years leading the theatre together.

Reopening: ACE warns ‘caution’ on disabled inclusivity

Reopening: ACE warns ‘caution’ on disabled inclusivity

Arts Council England has warned arts organisation to exercise caution as coronavirus restrictions are removed next week, especially in respect of the disabled and the clinically extremely vulnerable.

Stratford Arts to be wound up

Stratford Arts to be wound up

Stratford Arts Trust (SAT) is to be wound up following the loss of its venue, Stratford Circus, last year and now of Arts Council National Portfolio status.

RSC reopens – in the open

RSC reopens – in the open

The Royal Shakespeare Company has reopened after 16 months of closure, in its new open air theatre.

My Story	Acting up in class

My Story Acting up in class

Norwich Theatre – Norwich Theatre Royal, Norwich Playhouse and Stage Two - has been awarded £150,000 by the Paul Hamlyn Foundation for what is expected to be a ground-breaking project to support young people and their mental health, Wise About Words. It is major undertaking for the theatre and its chief executive Stephen Crocker, and for its partner in the scheme the Wensum Trust.

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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