OPINION: Harrogate Theatre’s dream team is still fighting on - David Bown
Harrogate Theatre received more positive news this month. We were awarded a further £91,000 from the Cultural Recovery Fund and a grant from Arts Council England to deliver an immersive community piece of theatre throughout the streets of Harrogate, written by local playwright Rachael Halliwell.
It is with enormous pride that we continue to receive strategic recognition across a platform of government agencies, but it is worth contemplating why in this year, of all years, we have secured over £2m in revenue funding and capital investment. I would like to examine how that has happened and all the hard work contributed by many people in recent years.
Firstly, I’d like to highlight our creative team of Phil Lowe and Porl Cooper. Phil directs the pantomime and co-writes it with me, but he also takes charge of the schedule for the three spaces we programme - the theatre, Royal Hall and the Convention Centre.
It’s fair to say Phil has contributed to a truly international cultural offer across the town that attracts audiences from all over the country.
Porl is in charge of curating the alternative end of the artistic spectrum. He travels the UK and Europe identifying emerging and experimental work. He has recently established partnerships with a number of venues in town to create a step free outreach programme that is essential when our base is a tricky old multi-story building.
In 2009 Hannah Draper arrived and totally transformed our Education offer. We now deliver workshops all year-round to young people from the age of 4 – 18, there is an after school-initiative with the formal sector and Hannah has secured specialist satellite premises to deliver over 400 workshop sessions a year as well as her huge strategic contribution as Deputy CEO. She is ably assisted by her co-worker Lizzy Whynes, who has worked tirelessly to develop the education department since her arrival in 2017.
We have some real stalwarts amongst our staff who have over sixty years of service between them. Andrew Robinson’s financial planning is simply faultless.
Kerry Maddison heads up the customer service team with Caroline Lowe and between them they organise front of house and box office, whilst Maurice Stewart receives nothing but praise from the many visiting theatre companies as Technical Manager. Last but not least, our Administrator Tori Moor has been with us for many years in various roles, starting at a very young age as a dancer in the pantomime.
This skill and experience is further supported by a Board of Directors that includes Lawyers, Accountants, a venture capitalist, the Deputy Leader of the Council, disability arts specialists, marketeers and an ex-mayor; all headed up by the Chair Deborah Larwood, who is Head of Development at Opera North.
It is this breadth of skill and experience that creates the confidence from government to invest in Harrogate Theatre, secure in the knowledge that their investments will benefit not only the Arts throughout the country, but also the wider economy of Harrogate and district.