OPINION: Looking to the future in tough times - David Bown, Harrogate Theatre

Lizzy Whynes is our youth theatre officer working within the education department here atHarrogate Theatre. Her role entails delivering drama workshops for all ages throughout the year. She also directs productions and works in partnership with many schools across Harrogate.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 29th July 2021, 12:14 pm

Naail Ishaq is a professional actor who graduated from the youth theatre and assists Lizzy. He now has some impressive national credits to his name, including one of the main roles in the London production of The Wolf of Wall Street as well the Giant in Harrogate’s Jack and the Beanstalk.

Together they have kept youth theatre up and running throughout this very difficult period.

I asked Lizzy… ‘what have been the challenges over the past 16 months?’

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“Each term has been different with plans constantly changing. Back in March 2020 the 15-plus and eight-to-ten-year-old members were excited to be a week away from performing their end-of-term productions, which of course had to be cancelled.

“We moved all our weekly workshops online, both pre-recorded and on Zoom.

“When we came out of the first lockdown all our sessions were socially distanced back on the main stage, but then after the second and third lockdowns we had to move offsite due to the council’s renovation work.

“Staff, HYT members and their families adapted to all these different ways of working magnificently and I couldn’t be prouder of them.

“Even though we have been in and out 
of lockdowns and unable to perform to a live audience, it hasn’t stopped HYT’s creativity.

“In the summer of 2020, they made a series of five time capsule videos for Harrogate Theatre’s YouTube channel, in spring 2021 the 11-to-14-year-olds and the 15-plus group made their own audio walks based in different parts of the town and last term the five-to-seven-year-olds and eight-to-ten-year-olds recorded a socially distanced performance.”

I asked Naail…’What have been the challenges and what are you looking forward to?’

“The last 18 months have been a hard learning curve as we have adapted to online working, which is so unnatural for an essentially physical, interactive and social activity.

“My heart has really missed the pantomime, as it’s a massive part of Christmas for all of us at the theatre.

“We have also been working ‘virtually’ towards our immersive show Ourgate, which will perform next month around the streets of Harrogate.

“What joy it was to finally get together in the same rehearsal room last month with the cast of Ourgate and also with our talented youth theatre.

“Of course, I’m really looking forward to the wonderful spectacle that is Harrogate Theatre’s panto at the end of November.”

“Although Harrogate Theatre has been closed for professional performances this past 16 months, the youth theatre has been very much open for business.

“Here at the theatre, we are all very grateful to Lizzy and her team, that we have been able to connect with our young people in such an imaginative manner during unpredictable and challenging times.”

If you are interested in joining Harrogate Youth Theatre or would like to know more about our schools offer please visit Harrogate Theatre’s website:


Tickets for Cinderella can be purchased online at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk or in person at the library between 10am-2pm Monday - Saturday.