Downton Abbey star praises school’s investment

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Jim Carter, star of Downton Abbey has expressed his “delight” at news his former school is set to spend £2.25million upgrading it’s auditrium.

The actor, best known for playing Carson the Butler in the ITV 1 period drama first took to stage at the Harrogate school in the 1960s and was Head Prefect at Ashville College in 1966.

The auditorium is to receive a major facelift which will see significantly improve acoustics, state of the art lighting, improved seating and a larger capacity.

This latest work on the school’s Soothill Hall brings the total the school has invested in its facilities to more thant £8million in the last six years.

Mr Carter said: “I’m delighted to hear about Ashville’s plans to upgrade the school auditorium to make it a top class performance space.

“I applaud most enthusiastically any efforts to encourage more students to take up Arts subjects at GCSE and A level, and having an inspiring venue will surely give a huge boost to all.

“I started acting when I was at Ashville, purely for the fun of it, with no intention of making a career as a performer. However, the pleasure I derived from those early forays into drama gave me the confidence to take up acting professionally.

“Forty-odd years later, I have no regrets and I look back on the Ashville plays with great affection.”

Peter Whiteley, Ashville College’s chair of governors, said: “The Soothill Hall has served the school and local community extremely well for the past four decades.

“However, the constant use was starting to take its toll, and we recognised that now was the time to look at totally refurbishing this facility.

“This significant investment of £2.25 million will result in Ashville College having one of the finest, mid-size auditoriums in the Harrogate District.

Mr Whiteley added: “At its opening 40 years ago my uncle and I both gave speeches. He was chair of governors and I was Head Prefect! I’m very much looking forward to being at its official reopening early next year.”

Ashville College Headmaster Mark Lauder said: “The Soothill Hall is at the very heart of College life. Over the last forty years it has hosted thousands of school assemblies and hundreds of concerts, plays and meetings.

“The refurbishment scheme will result in Ashville College having a first class auditorium that can play host to a wide variety of activities and be used by local community groups.”