The Harrogate Theatre column with David Bown

Two new faces have joined the Board of Directors at Harrogate Theatre.
Two new faces have joined the Board of Directors at Harrogate Theatre.

Harrogate (White Rose) Theatre Trust Ltd held its 57th annual general meeting at the end of last month and it was an extremely positive meeting. In summary, the ‘bottom line’ for the financial year 2016/17 was a very good, which always pleases the Board of Directors and the Trustees, but, there was lots more to celebrate. The continued artistic success of the theatre, the Royal Hall and Harrogate Convention Centre being the most important.

A number of factors underpinning this success can sometimes be overlooked.

The Board itself is made up of an immensely skilled group of individuals who give their time and expertise for free and it is their sensibilities that are often the powerhouse behind a lot of the success at the theatre. However, the nature of our constitution is such that that this group must evolve and change, thereby refreshing the skills that contribute to the progress of the organisation. So last month we said goodbye to two extraordinary people – Di Burton and Mark Hollander who have both given an enormous amount to the cause and in their place we say hello to Deborah Larwood and Vicky Ackroyd.

Deborah is currently Development Manager at Sheffield Theatres and Vicky is heavily involved in disability arts across the region. Both will bring vital skills to the progression of the theatre and the Trust. I’d also like to mention the supporters of Harrogate Theatre, a number of which were in attendance at the meeting, most noticeably the new Chair – Moya Pritchard. I’m thrilled that Moya has taken on this important and prominent role, as she brings a wealth of experience and passion.

Also at the meeting was Marcus Romer who has entered into the fold as an associate Artist. With 25 years of experience running the internationally renowned Pilot Theatre, Marcus will help shape the next phase of development as we enter into a period that explores the improvement of the Oxford Street site.

During the meeting we welcomed the continued support of the Arts Council, as I reported to the Trust that we had secured another four years of National Port Folio status. However, it needs to be emphasised that this would not be achieved without the substantial contributions of Harrogate Borough Council.

Back in 1960 Harrogate Borough Council purchased the theatre on Oxford Street after it had lurched from a number of unsuccessful private owners. Ever since, they have help to maintain the building and provide a core grant that supports the participation of young people throughout the district as well as a varied programme of entertainment. During my time this invaluable support has allowed the Trust to grow and thrive. We have had excellent support from council officers in recent times including Kevin Douglas, Les Williamson, Paul Leonard, Martin Weeks, Phil Stott, Nigel Avison and more recently Michael Constantine. Many provided unswerving support for the 2007 refurbishment, which was the beginning of the new successful era and they championed the importance of the arts in a vibrant town that seeks to encourage tourism.

Without Harrogate Borough Council the Trust would not have been able to deliver against a range of funding criteria, such as education and social inclusion, whilst simultaneously making a significant contribution to the local economy.

A sincere thank you to all those that continue to contribute to the cause of Harrogate Theatre.