Centre Stage with Harrogate Theatre’s chief executive David Bown

Salzburger Festspiele 2014
- Golem -
Landestheater Salzburg
Salzburger Festspiele 2014 - Golem - Landestheater Salzburg

Here at Harrogate Theatre 2016 definitely ended well.

The pantomime was yet another record breaker, as Dick Whittington finished its run as the largest grossing show in our history. For all those that came to see it, I’m sure you’ll agree, Tim Stedman was simply outstanding. The returning Howard Chadwick as Dame Sarah the Cook put in a fabulous shift as well. The cast and crew battled through 70 shows, most of them packed to the rafters and all very well received.

Since I’ve been at Harrogate Theatre we have produced Dick Whittington twice and both have had significant wobbles. During the first production in 2010 an electrical substation exploded on Cheltenham Parade and took out quite a few shows with it. Then Tim Stedman lost his voice and took a two week break, which sent us scurrying for an understudy. This year Harriett Hare who played the character of Alice Fitzwarren had to be replaced by another actress, Alice Barrott, after only the fourth performance due to illness. Considering that Dick Whittington was the very first show ever performed at Harrogate Theatre back in 1900, some of us are a little concerned that our friendly theatre ghost, also named Alice, might have a hand in the shaky goings on.

I’d like to thank the remarkable cast and crew, the front of house staff and of course all of you that came to see the show and who support the theatre year in year out. Beauty and the Beast is now on sale for Christmas 2017, so book early, as you can see Harrogate’s panto is becoming increasingly popular.

Talking of support and audience numbers. UK Theatre, which is the advisory and advocacy body for all theatres in the country, produced a league table of the best performing subsidised theatres in England, for the first time ever back in December. This was based on attendance, capacity and ticket yield - amongst other things. Harrogate Theatre came 26th in the country! We were all very pleased with that result as we were alongside some heavy weights such as The Donmar Warehouse and English Touring Theatre. And, we came third in Yorkshire, just behind Sheffield and West Yorkshire Playhouse, but, ahead of York Theatre Royal, Stephen Joseph Theatre in Scarborough and Hull Truck.

That’s an even more remarkable achievement when you consider that all of these theatres receive an enormous amount of Arts Council funding, and some quite literally get millions more than us. I think the people of Harrogate and district have every right to be proud of their support and enthusiasm for the arts. It’s this level of support that will help us realise our refurbishment plans in 2017 onwards as we drive towards creating a facility that is fit for the 21st Century and our very loyal patrons.

We celebrated our 117th birthday last week, which witnessed a lively gathering of sponsors, supporters and staff both past and present. It was a very jolly affair and a fitting end to such a successful year and festive period. Thank you to all those that attended in such good spirits.

Our new season for 2017 is now on sale and what a cracker it is. Drama features strongly with Golam presented by the 1927 Theatre Company, Invincible by the brilliant Torben Betts, a fascinating piece about dementia by Florian Zeller called The Father and there is also our own production of The Emperor’s New Clothes brought to you by the same team behind the pantomime. Hope to see you in 2017.