Joseph Rowntree Theatre sets £10,000 target for #SaveOurTheatres crowdfunding

Red alert: The Joseph Rowntree Theatre on the night of #LightItInRed, highlighting the plight of theatres, forced to shut down in March under Covid-19 restrictions

THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, is joining the national #SaveOurTheatres crowdfunding campaign with a fundraising target of £10,000.

The Haxby Road community theatre is one of the first to sign up for the national scheme launched by the Theatres Trust to support theatres throughout the country. 

The scheme is backed by high- profile names such as actor Jude Law, who is a Theatres Trust ambassador. “Coronavirus has simply devastated our theatre sector,” he says. “Communities across the UK are in real danger of losing their theatres forever and we risk losing a precious part of our culture and heritage.

“Theatres are a vital community hub that bring joy to millions of people each year and we must try to save these theatres for generations to come.”

The JoRo prides itself on being “a strong community hub, a venue run for the community, by the community”. Although unable to play host to live shows since March, trustees and volunteers have been working hard behind the scenes on fundraising, for the £90,000 Raise The Roof appeal, and events planning. 

However, the ongoing closure has necessitated spending savings to keep the theatre going, when these monies originally were earmarked to carry out essential repairs.

Dan Shrimpton, chair of the board of trustees, says: “We are in a stronger position than many theatres. However, our income has been affected significantly by the Covid-19 crisis and we are having to divert funds intended for essential repairs to cover the lost income.

“The crowdfunder campaign is to help support the theatre’s finances until it can reopen fully.”

The crowdfunding page is live at https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/josephrowntreetheatre, where various levels of donation are outlined with specified rewards at each level, ranging from a certificate of thanks to a champagne afternoon tea. Tote bags, theatre teddy bears and seat sponsorship are on offer too.

“The comments by supporters already on the page show the high level of esteem in which the community gem is held,” says Dan.

What did you do in lockdown? Here’s a kind word from motivational author Ian Donaghy

Author Ian Donaghy with the first edition of his new lockdown book, A Pocketful Of Kindness

TRAVEL back to times BC, before Covid.

Let York author, singer, event organiser, conference speaker and dementia care campaigner Ian Donaghy take up the story. “Imagine if we had been told on New Year’s Eve, ‘enjoy the next 12 weeks because, come March 2020, schools will close the gates,” he posits.

“Pub and restaurant curtains will be drawn and live music venues and theatres will be told the show mustn’t go on… and on top of that, there will be no cuddles allowed’.” 

Never has the world needed a bigger cuddle than in these uncharted waters, says Big Ian, whose response to lockdown inertia was to write a 229-page cuddle of a book entitled A Pocketful Of Kindness. 

“During lockdown, many people were furloughed, uncertain of their futures,” says Big Ian, larger-than-life host of such York community events as A Night To Remember at York Barbican and Xmas Presence, former school teacher and now a “key voice in care”.

On song: Ian Donaghy hosting A Night To Remember at York Barbican

“As a conference speaker, I suddenly realised the venues I usually fill with delegates, whether ExCeL London or the Harrogate Convention Centre, were now Covid-19 Nightingale hospitals. Everything I did on my public-speaker travels had disappeared.”

At his home, not far from the York Barbican, where his band Huge played the first ever show, a restless Ian needed to keep himself busy.

Noting the acts of kindness that were proliferating in lockdown, he hit on the idea of writing a pocket-sized book on that very subject.

He already had two all-life-is-here books to his name, firstly Dear Dementia, published in June 2014 and now available in libraries home and abroad.

Writer Ian Donaghy and director Gemma McDonald at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre box office when hatching their plan to convert The Missing Peace into a Rowntree Players production

Next, in December 2017, came The Missing Peace, Creating A Life After Death, whose transfer to the stage by Gemma McDonald and the Rowntree Players should have been playing the Joseph Rowntree Theatre this weekend.

The Missing Peace had taken three years from first thought to printing, a longer gestation than an elephant birth. Come 2020, he had so many heart-warming stories bubbling away, waiting to be told, he felt compelled to put finger to keyboard once more, and lockdown’s quietitude allowed him a more concentrated focus, a much faster turnaround.

“Like many people, I like to work from a finish line backwards, so I needed to create a finish line. Not just a raison d’etre, but a raison d’aider, to help people in this difficult time,” says Big Ian, whose 50th birthday fell in those shutdown weeks.

York pianist Kieran White as he appears in the story A Fish Out Of Water

“So, after transforming the garden and doing some pretty shoddy decorating, I reflected on what was important in this new simplified world.

“The world had stopped, giving us a rare period of clarity – an opportunity to reflect, to see who and what really matters in our lives and who and what doesn’t.”

He set about writing stories from his experiences in dementia care; teaching young people with learning difficulties; working in crime reduction for the Home Office and 30 years as a showman singer, fronting bands in his native North East, Yorkshire and Nottingham.

The book combines short stories, monologues and TED Talk-style chapters highlighting the virtues and power that kindness has had in transforming people’s lives.

Sir Bobby Robson: The subject of Ian’s story A League Of His Own

Page after page of true stories, full of humour, revelation, wry observation and pathos too, recount  the deeds of England and Newcastle United manager Sir Bobby Robson, Irish boxer Barry McGuigan, American blues guitarist Robert Cray and an army of selfless people you will “never have heard of but will want to meet”.

Big Ian’s celebration of kindness attracted award-winning Private Eye cartoonist Tony Husband, who provided a cartoon, such was his belief in the inspirational project.

“The idea behind the book is that you gift it to someone who has made a huge impact in your life with their acts of kindness who may not realise it,” says Big Ian. “This enables you to reflect on who has helped get you where you are today.”

Seventy stories in total, they will make you laugh, cry and think in equal measure, promises Big Ian, whose storytelling elan has prompted one reviewer to call him “an Alan Bennett for the 21st century, who finds tomorrow’s charm and nostalgia in today”.

Kieran White’s reaction on being gifted a copy of A Pocketful Of Kindness

A Pocketful Of Kindness is available only from bigian.co.uk and is proving popular already, selling 1,500 copies in its first week, based solely on word of mouth.

“Many companies have bought bespoke versions of the book with their company logos to show their employees how appreciated they are,” says Big Ian.

Summing up his philosophy in advocating a championing of kindness, he says:

“Look back on your life and think…

Who believed in you?

Who pushed you?

Who said, ‘If there’s anything you want, I’m here’….and actually backed it up.

Who asked you how you were and waited for an answer?

Tony Husband’s cartoon, Be Kind, gifted to Ian Donaghy for A Pocketful Of Kindness

Who inspired you?

Who believed in you when even you didn’t?

Who gave you your standards?

Who made time for you despite being so busy?

Who was kind when the world was not?

Think who helped make you.

Who would you send the book to?”

Inevitably influenced by being written in lockdown, A Pocketful Of Kindness is “a book for our times”. “As its centre-piece, it even features a chapter called Stop The World I Want To Get Off about the chaos 2020 has dealt us all,” says Ian.

“But now I predict a new pandemic that I’ve already witnessed in communities and in care homes that I think won’t need a vaccine, as I expect the result to read: Covid 19 Kindness 20.”

Pocketed: Book editor Charles Hutchinson shows off his reward for suffering Ian Donaghy’s “punktuation”

AS an act of kindness in the lockdown lull, Ian Donaghy asked yours truly to edit some stories that he wanted to turn into a book.

As an act of kindness, CH said ‘Yes’…and so the to and fro and fro and to of 70 stories began.

As an act of cruelty, Ian subjected CH to his erratic punctuation, or “punktuation”, as his father has so aptly described it.

As an act of generosity, ex-Maths teacher Ian put up with being judged as if for a school report, story after story.

Now, however, the result can be yours, courtesy of Big Ian providing five copies to be awarded to recipients for the five best reasons to do so, honouring acts of kindness you want to showcase.

Send those brief stories of kind deeds to charles.hutchinson104@gmail.com, marked Kindness Acts, with your name, address and daytime phone number, by September 13.

Who deserves a copy of A Pocketful Of KIndness? Have your say by sending your suggestion and reason to charles.hutchinson104@gmail.com

No turning back for Dick Whittington as Rowntree Players postpone panto to 2021

Cherish the memories of past Rowntree Players pantomimes…until the show can go on again in December 2021.

DICK Whittington will still be the next Rowntree Players pantomime…but not until 2021.

“After many weeks of deliberation, it is with a very heavy heart that the Rowntree Players’ committee has eventually decided that this year’s pantomime, Dick Whittington, will not go ahead this year,” came today’s statement.

“But it will be back better than ever in December 2021.” Dates for next year’s diary will be December 4 to 11 with the usual evening and matinee performances.

The Players’ annual “rollicking romp of a panto” has taken place, with only a few breaks, for more than 70 years at York’s community theatre in Haxby Road. Given that long history, the decision to cancel the 2020 pantomime run amid the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic was not taken lightly.

Co-writer and director Howard Ella has worked closely with the board of trustees to mull over the possibilities, now that indoor performances are permitted, but in the end they bowed to the curse of social distancing and the uncertainty over when and if theatres can re-open at full capacity. No compromise was their verdict.

Howard says: “We could have considered performing to a small audience, with a three-piece band, no chorus, a limited cast and set, no shout-outs from the audience but, let’s be honest, that would not be the Rowntree Players’ panto everybody knows and loves.

“We have never done a compromised show and nor do we want to start to. The script is now locked in a secure vault in Alderman Fitzwarren’s bank, ready for summer auditions next year.”

The Players’ decision comes as the viability of Christmas pantomimes across the country is being assessed.  “At a time when many venues are perilously close to closure, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre is unique in York in that it’s owned by the charity that runs it and has no staff overheads, run as it is by more than 170 volunteers,” says Dan Shrimpton, chair of the board of trustees.

“We wholeheartedly support Howard and his committee’s decision on this year’s pantomime, heart-breaking though it is.  The ten-day run of performances in December is the real highlight of the theatre’s year, but we look forward to welcoming the Rowntree Players back next year with the postponed show. The show will go on – oh, yes it will!”

The Rowntree Players’ pantomime is “very much a community affair”, billed as all-round, good, affordable fun for all, written and directed by York artists, suitable for absolutely all ages, and not requiring any knowledge of previous shows or of the local area.

“Tickets will go on sale from the Joseph Rowntree Theatre box office in the summer of 2021 and are expected to sell very well, given the uncertainty surrounding many other local pantomimes,” today’s statement concludes.

“Lucky 13” picked for second round of Yorkshire’s Got Talent for JoRo’s roof appeal

Sam Rippon: One of the “lucky 13” to make it through to the next round of the Yorkshire’s Got Talent virtual contest

THE Yorkshire’s Got Talent virtual contest, in York, enters its second phase with 13 contestants still standing.

The online competition was launched last month to provide funds for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s £90,000 Raise The Roof appeal.

From dozens of entries, the ten acts that collected the most votes proceeded straight through to the next round. The following day, three more acts were “saved”, as each of the three judges picked a wildcard entry.

Hannah Wakelam: Organiser of Yorkshire Got’s Talent

Entries closed at midnight last Saturday, whereupon organiser Hannah Wakelam, 19,  announced the results live on Facebook on Sunday evening. The ten acts going through, in no particular order, are Sam Rippon; Richard Bayton; Flo Taylor; Jess Baxter; Harvey Stevens; Florence Poskitt & Adam Sowter, Nancy Mae and Ayda Mooney; Daisy Winbolt -Robertson; Roxy Hurst and Evan Watkinson.

Taking the total to 13, lucky for them, were the wildcards chosen by judges Nathan Lodge, Amelia Urukalo and Wicked star Laura Pick. Nathan saved Ed Atkin, Amelia rescued Abbi Watkinson and Laura’s pick was Jordan Wright.

Graham Mitchell, the Jo Ro’s events and fundraising director, says: “We’ve entered a really exciting part of the contest as each week from now on the finalists will have to fight to keep their places.

Wright choice: Laura Pick picked Jordan Wright as her wildcard choice

“Whereas when the acts first entered, it was up to them what they submitted, from now on we’ll be giving them a theme to work with.  The first theme is Disney, so we’re looking forward to seeing what our performers choose to come up with.”

The latest round will close on August 19, when it will be up to the judges to decide who progresses.

Dan Shrimpton, the JoRo charity’s chair of trustees, says: “We recognise many of the acts as they’ve already performed on our stage.  What makes this competition exciting to us as a hub for community theatre across the whole of the Yorkshire region is that we’ve seen interest from farther afield than York city centre and also from a wide range of different types of acts.”

The logo for Yorkshire’s Got Talent

The talent contest is the latest in a series of fundraising events for the Haxby Road theatre, in the wake of an online fitness video, a small yard sale, the ongoing sale of Barbara Boyce-designed face masks and the Up On The Roof virtual video, filmed at the beginning of lockdown.

To launch the Raise The Roof campaign, the JoRo has set up a Just Giving page, encouraging donations of “even just the amount of a takeaway coffee” at justgiving.com/campaign/Raise-the-Roof.

Yorkshire’s Got Talent contest video entry deadline extended by a week for Joseph Rowntree Theatre roof appeal fundraiser

“We don’t want anyone to miss out on the chance of becoming a finalist in Yorkshire’s Got Talent,” says organiser Hannah Wakelam

THE deadline for performers to upload video entries for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s online contest, Yorkshire’s Got Talent, is being extended by a week.

Organiser Hannah Wakelam and the judges, Wicked star Laura Pick, cruise-ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge and vocal coach Amelia Urukalo, have set a new cut-off point of midnight on August 8.

Hannah has set up the virtual competition as a fundraiser for the JoRo’s £90,000 Raise The Roof appeal.

“We still have lots of entries coming in, as word of the contest reaches further afield,” says the 19-year-old York performer. “We don’t want anyone to miss out on the chance of becoming a finalist in Yorkshire’s Got Talent, and so the judges and I are extending the entry deadline to next weekend.

“All types of performers are encouraged to enter and to show off what they can do, whether it’s singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, performing a circus act, the list is endless.”

The cost of entry is a minimum donation of £5 to the Raise the Roof appeal for the Art Deco building, in Haxby Road, and no age restrictions apply.

To comply with lockdown rules, entrants are asked to submit a short video of themselves performing their acts. The contest winner will receive £100.

Full rules and details of how to enter can be found at:

Facebook:  facebook.com/groups/687590815139642/about

Instagram: instagram.com/yorkshiresgottalent/

Graham Mitchell, the JoRo’s events and fundraising director, says: “There’s a real buzz around this contest now. Having a West End star [Laura Pick] among our judging panel has certainly got people talking and we are seeing a rush of last-minute entries.  By extending the deadline, we’ll be able to accommodate more acts at the same time as raising more money for our fundraising appeal.”

The online contest is the latest in a string of fundraisers for the Rowntree Theatre’s  roof appeal, following on from a virtual video, a Zoom fitness class and the ongoing sale of jazzy face masks made by theatre volunteer Barbara Boyce.

To launch the Raise the Roof campaign, the JoRo has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging donations of “even just the amount of a takeaway coffee” at  justgiving.com/campaign/Raise-the-Roof.

Who wants carrots? Barbara rises to mask task to aid Rowntree Theatre’s roof appeal

Joseph Rowntree Theatre volunteering director Barbara Boyce models one of her face masks in aid of the Raise The Roof appeal

SALES of jazzy face masks designed by volunteering director Barbara Boyce have raised more than £850 for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre roof appeal in York.

Early on in lockdown, before the wearing of masks or facial coverings became commonplace or, in some places, mandatory, Barbara began making and selling fabric face masks for the Raise The Roof appeal. 

Board trustee Barbara bought and donated all the fabric and elastic for the masks,  joining the JoRo’s Just Giving campaign with her fundraiser over the past two months.

“I am making these fun face masks to brighten up those occasions when people need to wear them. They come in a huge variety of high-quality fabrics featuring animals, florals and quirky prints,” she says.

Leaves or carrots? Two of the masks available from Barbara Boyce to boost the Joseph Rowntree Theatre appeal for roof repairs

Now that mask-wearing is to become compulsory in shops, with effect from July 24, Barbara anticipates continued – and hopefully increased – demand for the snazzy masks and in turn a further boost for the £90,000 appeal.

Barbara is asking for a minimum donation of £8 for each mask and buyers can contact her to choose a design and size via justgiving.com/fundraising/barbara-boyce1, with her masks available in adult and child sizes.

“All our usual income has dried up as no-one is able to hire the theatre at the moment,” she says.  “We still need to pay our bills and get the roof repaired.

“So far I’ve made over 100 masks and as long as people keep buying, I’ll keep sewing.”

Yorkshire’s Got Talent finale could take place on Rowntree Theatre stage if….

The Joseph Rowntree Theatre building, bathed in “emergency red” when taking part in the #LightItInRed campaign for urgent support for the theatre industry on Monday night

PLANS are afoot for the climax of the Yorkshire’s Got Talent contest to be held at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, rather than online.

The Haxby Road theatre has announced it will “hand over the stage to the contest once it is able to re-open and  many performers who will have taken part “virtually” can take centre stage in front of a live audience”.

No date has been set for such a finale, against the background of no easing of the Government’s lockdown strictures on theatres, all having been cast into darkness since mid-March.

Yorkshire’s Got Talent is being run by York teenager Hannah Wakelam, a regular musical theatre performer at the JoRo, in aid of the Art Deco building’s £90,000 Raise the Roof appeal for roof repairs.

Hannah, 19, has signed up three VIP guests to judge the event: Wicked star Laura Pick, from Wakefield, West End regular and cruise ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge, from York, and Ripon vocal coach Amelia Urukalo.

Yorkshire’s Got Talent judge Laura Pick in her West End role as Elphaba in Wicked

Entries are open from now until August 1 for a contest with a £100 prize. “All types of performers are encouraged to enter and to show off what they can do,” says Hannah.

“Whether it’s singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, performing a circus act, the list is endless.”

The cost of entries is a minimum donation of £5 to the Raise the Roof appeal and no age restrictions apply. “Because of lockdown rules, entrants will be asked to submit a short video of themselves performing their acts,” says Hannah. “The winner will receive £100 and their online performances will be seen right across the Yorkshire area.”

Hannah is hoping that, schedules permitting, the three VIP judges, will be able to attend the climax to her county-wide contest at the JoRo.  

Laura Pick was playing Elphaba in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre in the West End until the Covid-19 lockdown. Nathan Lodge, no stranger to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, has many West End credits, complemented by his career as a vocal captain on cruise ships. Vocal coach Amelia Urukal has experience aplenty in judging talent competitions and runs the Upstage Academy performing arts studio in Ripon.

Yorkshire’s Got Talent contest organiser Hannah Wakelam

Determined to help the JoRo, Hannah says: “It’s because of my experience on stage at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre that I’m following my dream to be a professional performer. 

“I honestly wouldn’t be where I am now without this community venue and all it does for young talent.  This contest is just my way of saying ‘thank you’ and I’d love other young performers to learn about the opportunities they can find here.”

Hannah is running a raffle alongside the talent contest and is urging businesses or individuals to consider donating prizes.  “All donors will be credited in our publicity,” she says. “The theatre has kicked off the appeal for donations by offering theatre tokens and a framed print of the Art Deco building by artist Elliot Harrison.”

To launch the Raise The Roof campaign, the JoRo has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging people to “donate even just the amount of a takeaway coffee”.  To do so, go to justgiving.com/campaign/Raise-the-Roof.

Full rules and details of how to enter Yorkshire’s Got Talent can be found here:

Facebook: facebook.com/groups/687590815139642/about

Instagram: instagram.com/yorkshiresgottalent/.

York Theatre Royal goes into the red…to highlight the need for emergency support

Red sky at night : York Theatre Royal taking part in the #LightItInRed campaign tonight

YORK Theatre Royal will be bathed in “emergency red” tonight as part of the nationwide #LightItInRed campaign.

The 9pm event was announced before the Blues came to the arts industry’s aid in the dead of night last night when the Government suddenly announced a £1.57 billion grant and loan package after the Covid-19 pandemic left theatres and music venues in the dark, both physically and as to when they might re-open both safely and economically viably, stymied by social-distancing measures.

The choice of red has turned out to be prescient, given the most well-worn reaction of the day being that “the devil is in the detail”.

Taken as red: The foyer “mushrooms” pictured on #LightItInRed night at York Theatre Royal

Organised by Clearsound Productions in partnership with the Backstage Theatre Jobs, the #LightItInRed project sees theatres, arts and music venues up and down the country lighting their buildings in red to “raise awareness of the difficulties facing the UK events industry as a result of the Coronavirus crisis”.

Unlike for other industries, no set date is in place for live events, shows, festivals and performances to re-start after the COVID-19 lockdown, against the backdrop of the “creative sector” usually generating around £110 billion annually for the UK economy, based on figures from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Since mid-March 16, however, major events have been prohibited, leaving more than 25,000 businesses without any income. York Theatre Royal, for example, has lost £650,000 in expected income since its closure on March 17. 

In a statement today, the Theatre Royal “welcomes, with gratitude, the announcement that the government will support the arts with a £1.57bn funding package and keenly awaits the details of how the funding will work”. 

“We currently have no clear time frame as to when our doors will be able to re-open,” says York Theatre Royal executive director Tom Bird

Before the late-night announcement of a deal thrashed out by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden and the Chancellor, Richmond MP Rishi Sunak, the Theatre Royal’s executive director, Tom Bird, had warned that “the clock is ticking” after Dowden initially announced a road map for theatre’s return “that a child could have drawn up”.

Others had called the five-step plan – short on detail, devoid of dates – a road map to nowhere, a faulty SatNav leading only to a cliff’s edge.

Today Bird called for a “clear time frame” for urgent action beyond the words. “York Theatre Royal makes a huge social and economic impact in our city, and we have been working very hard behind the scenes to ensure we come roaring back with an epic programme for all the community to enjoy,” he said.

Silence is…red: The York Theatre Royal stage and auditorium, as empty as they have been since March 17, on the #LightItInRed campaign night

“We are delighted and grateful that the Government have committed £1.57bn to support the arts sector. However, our theatre remains closed, and we currently have no clear time frame as to when our doors will be able to re-open.

“Just 11 per cent of our annual income comes from state funding, the rest is made up by our audiences: the thousands of people who come to be entertained and inspired by us every year.

“We are pursuing all possible sources of funding, including the Government support, but we ask that you join the many who have already supported us by donating to us.”

Tom continued: “This is a difficult time for our building, but it is an incredibly difficult time for the freelancers who make up such an important part of our theatre family. 70 per cent of people who work in theatre and performance in the UK are freelance, and it’s for this workforce that the impact of the current situation is most acute. Our freelance family are very much in our thoughts and plans for the future.” 

On red alert: The Joseph Rowntree Theatre, the York community theatre in Haxby Road, taking part in tonight’s #LightItInRed emergency campaign

The Theatre Royal is asking people to share photos of the red-lit building in St Leonard’s Place on social media, using the hashtag #LightItInRed. Donations to York Theatre Royal can be made online at yorktheatreroyal.co.uk.

Tonight, York Theatre Royal, the National Theatre and the Royal Opera House will be among 564 “iconic landmarks” to be lit up in “emergency red to draw attention to the critical condition of the live events and entertainment industry”, in a campaign inspired by Germany’s #NightofLight protest in June that triggered €1billion in emergency arts funding.

A spokesman for #LightItInRed said: “While we welcome the rescue package from the Government, we await clarification about what this means for freelancers, suppliers and those in the wider theatrical and events industry.  We continue to light buildings red this evening to show we are still standing by to reopen.”

Taking part too tonight will be the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, whose chair of the board of trustees, Dan Shrimpton, said: “We want to show our support for this movement.  Our theatre is all about involvement and community and because of the generous support given to us by local company Technical Stage Services, we’ve been able to get the ‘Emergency Red’ lighting set up quickly. “

Shortly before the closure of theatres, the JoRo, in Haxby Road, York, launched its Raise The Roof appeal to raise a £90,000 shortfall for roof repairs, with the remaining costs coming from reserves. 

“A prolonged closure will result in the theatre needing to dip into those reserves to meet running costs, so the charity will be keeping a watch to see if it will be able to apply for grants or loans from the government’s scheme,” said Dan.

Would you want to be judged by the evil eye of Wicked’s Elphaba? Here’s your chance in the Yorkshire’s Got Talent contest

Yorkshire’s Got Talent judging panellist Laura Pick in her West End role as Elphaba in Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre, London. Who will Laura pick to win with her fellow judges?

YORK teenage musical theatre performer Hannah Wakelam is launching the Yorkshire’s Got Talent Virtual Contest to boost the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s Raise The Roof campaign, with Wicked’s Elphaba among the judges.

Hannah, 19, who has appeared many times on the JoRo stage, has signed up three VIP guests to judge the event: Wicked star Laura Pick, West End regular and cruise ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge and Ripon vocal coach Amelia Urukalo.

Entries are open from now until August 1 for a contest with a £100 prize. “All types of performers are encouraged to enter and to show off what they can do,” says Hannah. “Whether it’s singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, performing a circus act, the list is endless.”

The cost of entries is a minimum donation of £5 to the Raise The Roof appeal and no age restrictions apply. “Because of lockdown rules, entrants will be asked to submit a short video of themselves performing their acts,” says Hannah. “The winner will receive £100 and their online performances will be seen right across the Yorkshire area.”

Hannah Wakelam: Yorkshire’s Got Talent Virtual Contest organiser and Raise The Roof fundraiser

The Haxby Road theatre needs to find £90,000 to go towards roof repairs to the Art Deco building to ensure the JoRo will be around for future generations of Yorkshire performers.

Graham Mitchell, the theatre’s events and fundraising director, says: “Hannah got in touch with us the very day that our appeal was launched and offered to do a fundraiser within the overall campaign. 

“Already we’ve had lots of people express an interest in the contest and now that the judges have been announced, we expect levels of interest to take off.”

Heading up the panel is Laura Pick, from Wakefield, who was flying high as Elphaba in Wicked in the West End until the Covid-19 lockdown stopped her Defying Gravity.

Yorkshire’s Got Talent judge Amelia Urukalo

Fellow judge Nathan Lodge, originally from York and no stranger to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, has many West End credits, complemented by his career as a vocal captain on cruise ships. 

The third judge, vocal coach Amelia Urukalo, has experience aplenty in judging talent competitions and runs the Upstage Academy performing arts studio in Ripon.

The Yorkshire area is teeming with performing talent, not least on the Rowntree Theatre stage: a training ground and launchpad for many professional acting careers, such as Harry Potter and Broadchurch actor David Bradley, Emmerdale and Casualty actor Ian Kelsey and West End musical theatre performer Scott Garnham.

Nathan says: “I really believe that the industry is full of exceptionally talented people who started out in Yorkshire and I can’t wait to see what the future of talent from home looks like.”

“I can’t wait to see what the future of talent from home looks like,” says Yorkshire’s Got Talent judge Nathan Lodge, who took his early theatrical steps at the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

The JoRo launched its Raise The Roof campaign last month by creating an online music video, put together “virtually” during lockdown. Last Saturday morning, an online fitness class raised almost £300 for the campaign.

The total stands at £2,673, more than half of the £5,000 target for this early stage of the overall £90,000 appeal. Almost 100 people have donated so far, testament to the campaign gathering momentum.

Dan Shrimpton, chair of trustees of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre charity, says: “We launched the campaign with several of our own team performing a music video, then we held an online fitness class hosted by Hannah King, which lots of our supporters took part in.

“Yorkshire’s Got Talent is the third event in a chain of many fundraisers that we already have in the pipeline. We know this competition will be hugely popular as it’s open to everyone in the Yorkshire region, whether they’ve performed at our venue or not.  It’s simply a celebration of local talent, all the while supporting a great community cause.”

The auditorium at the Art Deco-designed Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in Haxby Road, York

To launch the Raise The Roof campaign, the JoRo has set up a Just Giving page and is encouraging people to “donate even just the amount of a takeaway coffee”.  To do so, go to justgiving.com/campaign/Raise-the-Roof.

Full rules and details of how to enter Yorkshire’s Got Talent can be found here: Facebook: facebook.com/groups/687590815139642/about; Instagram: instagram.com/yorkshiresgottalent/.

The judges will select a final ten from the entries and the contest will progress from there through a process of elimination until the winner is declared.