Curtain up on art deco Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s upgrade after £10,000 award

Joseph Rowntree Theatre charity chairman Dan Shrimpton, centre, receives the £10,000 award from the J&C Joel workforce at the York theatre

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, has won £10,000 in a nationwide competition run by the Theatres Trust and international stage equipment company J & C Joel.

The Sowerby Bridge company has replaced all the stage curtains and upgraded the scenery-moving equipment to facilitate “even bigger and better” shows at the Art Deco community theatre in Haxby Road.

Graham Mitchell, the JoRo theatre’s company secretary, fundraising and events director and charity trustee says: “We’re very grateful to everyone at J & C Joel and at the Theatres Trust for the work done. The award’s timing could not be better, as we’re expanding the range and number of shows we host. Coming just after being voted York’s Best Entertainment Venue in Minster FM’s Listener Choice awards, this is an immense boost.”

Dan Shrimpton, the JoRo charity’s chairman, believes the award will make a huge difference to operating the theatre. “Our audiences will be able to see ever more imaginative settings for plays and musicals, and, of course, the annual Rowntree Players pantomime,” he says.

“The theatre was built in 1935 by Rowntrees for the benefit of their employees and the citizens of York, so that everyone could experience a wide variety of affordable entertainment, either by taking part or by just coming to watch shows, concerts and films.

“We have big plans to improve our facilities over the next few years to make the theatre a truly vibrant asset for York, as originally intended by Seebohm and Joseph Rowntree. It really is a community asset run for the people of York, by the people of York”.

J&C Joel employees assessing the task in hand at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York

James Wheelwright, J & C Joel’s chief executive, says: “We celebrated our 40th anniversary last year and we wanted to mark it in a special way. We worked with the Theatres Trust, the national organisation protecting and advising theatres, to create the competition.

“The Joseph Rowntree Theatre won from a very wide field of theatres from up and down the country because we loved what they are doing as a community run theatre, providing affordable entertainment to the people of York and beyond – and who also have big plans for the theatre’s future.”

Tom Stickland, theatres adviser at the Theatres Trust, says: “The Joseph Rowntree Theatre is a great example of the transformational effect that committed community groups can have on theatres. The Theatres Trust is pleased to be in a position to link up generous industry specialists like J & C Joel with community theatres, so that they can offer this vital support.”

Run entirely by volunteers, the JoRo welcomed 50 hirers last year, who staged 135 performances. The theatre is used by more than 35 York groups, as well as several professional touring companies and performers.

This week, the JoRo is playing host to the York Community Choir Festival until Saturday.

Jessa Liversidge: performing her Songbirds show at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre on April 5

York St John University Musical Production Society will present Guys & Dolls, March 19 to 21; Bev Jones Music Company, Calamity Jane, March 25 to 28; Flying Ducks Youth Theatre, Crush The Musical, April 2 to 4; Jessa Liversidge, Songbirds, a celebration of female singing icons, April 5.

For tickets and more details of upcoming shows, go to Box office:  01904 501935.

Did you know?

J&C Joel was established in 1978 in Sowerby Bridge, near Halifax, founded by John Wheelwright whose family had been involved in the textile industry for more than 150 years.

The business exports to more than 80 countries worldwide, providing products such as front-of-house theatre curtains, stage backdrops, cycloramas, gauzes, acoustic drapes, projection screens and stage engineering solutions. J&C Joel has offices in the UK, Europe, Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Australasia.

The Theatres Trust is the national advisory public body for theatres, championing the future of live performance by protecting and supporting theatre buildings that meet the needs of their communities.

The trust provides advice on the design, planning, development and sustainability of theatres, campaigning on behalf of theatres old and new and offering financial assistance through grants.