THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre is seeking a director of volunteering to join its board.
The new volunteer board member will be jointly in charge of helping to manage and support the York theatre’s volunteer staff.
Dan Shrimpton, the JoRo’s chair of trustees, says: “This role is vitally important to the smooth running of our fabulous community venue. Although unpaid, the post offers enormous rewards to the right candidate, including belonging to a very supportive board and enjoying the magic of theatre first-hand.
“You will be involved in one of the country’s top community-led theatres, working with remarkable people from a wide range of backgrounds to deliver great entertainment to the people of York.”
Barbara Boyce, the JoRo’s director of volunteering already in post, says: “The appointed trustee will be responsible for organising the scheduling of volunteers, both front of house and backstage.
“The workload will be shared between both of us. We are looking to recruit an exceptional person who will be crucial in ensuring the effective staffing of each production staged at the theatre.”
The coordination of the volunteers is done mainly electronically, using an online database and communication tools, hence having strong computer skills is a must.
Established processes are in place already, but there will be opportunities aplenty for the new director of volunteering to make their own mark on how the role is carried out. The successful candidate must have first-class communication skills and enthusiasm for managing volunteers.
The time commitment will vary, depending on the JoRo’s scheduled activities, but it is anticipated the role will usually take up approximately four to six hours per week.
In addition, the new trustee will attend 12 board meetings each year, each lasting approximately two hours, usually on the first Monday of each month. At present, meetings are held over video conferencing, so prospective applicants need to be willing to familiarise themselves with this way of communicating.
All trustees act as duty managers within the theatre several times a month. On a typical show evening, the duty manager arrives by 6pm for a 7.30pm performance, usually leaving the Haxby Road building by 10.30 pm.
Anyone interested and keen to find out more should email volunteering director Barbara Boyce at email@example.com to arrange a visit for an informal discussion with two or three trustees, once such meetings are permitted under Covid strictures.
After the informal discussion, an interview with trustees will be held for shortlisted candidates.
YORK’S unstoppable force for the joy of singing, Jessa Liversidge, will present Songbirds, her celebration of female icons through the decades, at the reopened Joseph Rowntree Theatre on Sunday.
She will be accompanied at the 7.30pm concert by Malcolm Maddock on piano. “Malcolm and I launched the show a year ago in Tollerton, then performed it at Helmsley Arts Centre in January,” says Jessa.
“Both shows received a fantastic response from audiences and we were all set for an April performance at the Rowntree Theatre, but it was not to be.
“However, we were able to put together a live-stream highlights version at the end of July, but we can’t wait to perform to a live theatre audience together again this weekend.”
Jessa has devised such one-woman shows as her tribute to wartime women, ‘Til The Boys Come Home, and a musical theatre compilation, Some Enchanted Sondheim. Songbirds, her late-2019 addition, is an eclectic mix of vintage pop, musical theatre and comedy from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s.
“The show came about as I wanted to pay tribute to some of my favourite female musical icons, even though they come from a wide range of styles,” she says.
“So, one minute I may be in full, high-energy Victoria Wood flow, performing some of her most well-known songs, like Barry And Freda, with all the verses…moments later, I could be totally still, lost in a Kate Bush or Karen Carpenter song, and then I’ll go straight into theatrical mode for Sondheim’s Send In The Clowns.”
In the past few years, Dundee-born Jessa has become a huge fan of Carole King. “Through the lockdowns of the summer, I collaborated with Gary Stewart, a fantastic solo musician, as well as a member of Hope & Social and his own Graceland band – who happens to be our neighbour – to create some socially distanced Carole King and James Taylor collaborations,” says Jessa.
“Now, there are five Carole King songs featured in Songbirds and so many more I would like to do. Maybe a full tribute show is on the cards next.”
Songs by musical heroes from her teenage days, fellow Scot Annie Lennox and Alison Moyet, will feature too.
“I haven’t abandoned musical theatre completely,” says the York Musical Theatre Company regular. “I’ve included Julie Andrews and Barbra Streisand in my list of icons, and songs such as Feed The Birds and The Way We Were are featured, as well as The Sound Of Music and On A Clear Day.”
Looking forward to playing once more with Malcolm Maddock, Jessa says: “Having worked together so much, we have a wonderful collaborative relationship, and Malcolm is such a sensitive and responsive accompanist.
“We’ve performed live together for the filming of the St Leonard’s Hospice Light Up A Life service – now available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/xkWheW34xB8 – and that was such a special moment, especially in the beautiful setting and acoustic of Selby Abbey.”
Sunday’s stage at the JoRo will be very simple and intimate. “The stars of this show are the songs,” says Jessa. “I will not be doing impressions of these legends or presenting tribute acts.
“What I aim to do is perform this massive range of songs in a way that is loyal to the original but also true to my own style. Every single song in this programme I love performing for different reasons, and I hope that passion comes across to the audience too.
“But unusually for December 20, this will not be a festive show, though Malcolm and I have found a way of including at least one festive-themed song in the evening while staying true to the Songbirds theme.”
Jessa and her husband, fellow performer Mick, have played their part in the reopening of the JoRo theatre in Haxby Road, York. “In September, Mick and I performed our Fields And Lanes show there as a test for their Covid safety procedures,” she reveals.
“We were really pleased to be able to help the theatre in this way, and it has allowed the theatre to finalise their procedures and guidelines, enabling them to reopen and make the theatre visit as safe as possible for all guests and performers.
“It also allowed us to test out our outdoor poetry and song-based show in an indoor setting and it worked really well.
“So, in 2021, we’re excited to be working together on a Fields And Lanes project for Helmsley Arts Centre, involving members of the community in workshops, leading up to a performance in March.”
Jessa advises: “There’ll be very limited places on these workshops as we hope to work very closely with people on their singing and poetry interpretation skills – and the final performance will be available both as a live theatre show and a live stream. Details will be on the Helmsley Arts Centre website from January.”
Meanwhile, this ever-busy people’s champion has been trying to keep all her singing groups going online amid the strictures of the pandemic. “This has been a particular challenge for my Singing For All group,” she says.
“I set up the group as a Community Interest Company in the summer – something I’d been meaning to do for a while – and, after nine months of drastically reduced participation due to the Covid situation, with so many of my members not being online, Singing For All is struggling to keep going.”
Aware that the “magic of Christmas would have to be a bit different for everyone this year”, Jessa decided to do a daily Singing For All Advent Singalong throughout December.
“Every day, I go live on Facebook and sing a festive song or two, while saying a little about how special Singing For All is, with a virtual busking hat so that people can help if they are able to. The Advent Singalongs can be found on my Facebook page and YouTube.”
Turning to 2021’s diary, Jessa says: “My hopes for next year are that I can somehow continue to keep singing and helping others find the singing joy, however I can. With any luck, at least some of that may be with live audiences and choirs.”
Tickets for Sunday’s show are on sale at josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/
THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, in York, is taking part in the Theatres Trust national initiative to raise funds via a virtual bucket shake this festive season.
Donations will help to replace income lost in the grip of the pandemic. The Haxby Road theatre is asking supporters to help the JoRo to make sure it can welcome visiting performers and audiences to shows in 2021 by donating to a virtual bucket and then claiming a reward on the Crowdfunder page.
Dan Shrimpton, chair of trustees, says: “We’re facing an enormous loss of income from ticket sales, merchandise and ice creams, as well as missing out on the opportunity for a traditional bucket collection. This is why we’d like to invite you to take part in a virtual bucket collection this panto season.”
The virtual bucket shake has been launched in advance of the JoRo reopening this weekend for Oddsocks Productions’ A Christmas Carol on Saturday at 3pm and 7.30pm and the Steve Cassidy Band on Sunday at 7.30pm. For tickets, go to: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/
NO year can go by without jocund joshers Oddsocks Productions playing the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York, not even a Covid-compromised year.
Sure enough, the madcap Derby company return on Saturday for 60 minutes of socially distanced, slapstick-heavy festive fun with their very fast-moving adaptation of a Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.
Make that 120 minutes because there will be two performances, the first at 3pm, the second at 7.30pm.
“Experience the ghostly tale of greed and comeuppance from the safety of your own table for up to six,” comes the Oddsocks invitation.
“Has Scrooge had his last humbug? Will he join the festive carollers and get some figgy pudding? Will Tiny Tim warm his stone-cold heart?” they ask.
“Find out when Oddsocks serve up a Victorian feast of a family show in their own inimitable style using comedy, music and song.”
Oddsocks’ cracking crack at A Christmas Carol combines ghostly puppets from puppeteer Josh Elwell (CBeebies, Disney and The Jim Henson Company) with Oddsocks actor/director Andy Barrow as Scrooge and Joseph Maudsley (Ratty in Oddsocks’ The Wind In The Willows) as Bob Cratchit, also introducing Harrie Dobby to the Oddsocks family as Mrs Cratchit.
Suitable for all from age seven upwards, A Christmas Carol will be performed without an interval but Humbug galore at the Covid-secure JoRo Theatre. Tickets are on sale at: josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/whats-on/all-shows/a-christmas-carol/1327# or on 01904 501935.
TODAY is the 85th anniversary of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York, aptly on #LoveTheatreDay.
The theatre was opened on Monday, November 18 1935 by Mr Seebohm Rowntree, then chairman of Rowntree & Co Limited, with the aim of “providing a hall which may be a fitting centre for those recreational and educational activities that make for a full and happy life”.
Under Lockdown 2 restrictions, the Haxby Road community theatre cannot hold an actual birthday party, but its social media channels will be full of stories, anecdotes and photographs.
Supporters and volunteers have come together to share their memories and their hopes for the future of the Art Deco venue.
Those wanting to join in the conversations should email any memories to firstname.lastname@example.org or contribute via Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
In addition to the birthday celebrations, the JoRo is highlighting the support and encouragement of its three patrons: David Bradley, Ian Kelsey and Frances Simon.
Bradley, known to many older York residents from his time with the Rowntree Youth Theatre and from playing Jesus in the 1976 York Mystery Plays, has become a familiar face nationwide from his vast number of stage, film and television appearances over many decades. Latterly, those credits take in the Harry Potter franchise, Game Of Thrones and Broadchurch.
Although David, 78, has been a patron of the JoRo for “some time”, the 85th anniversary is the first time that the theatre has announced his patronage formally and celebrated his backing.
In support of the theatre’s Raise The Roof fundraising campaign, David said: “The Joseph Rowntree Theatre has been a vital part of the city for so many years. I know from personal experience that it has provided opportunities for so many young people, and I will always be grateful for that. I fully support the theatre’s appeal and wish it all the best.”
The second, newly appointed patron is York-born actor Ian Kelsey, who honed his skills in many shows produced by Rowntree Youth Theatre. After a stint as an apprentice coach builder at the York railway carriage works, the acting bug drove him to follow his dreams by studying at Guildford School of Acting.
He has since been a regular on the nation’s TV screens in multiple drama series, from Blue Murder and Coronation Street to Doctors, Casualty and Emmerdale.
The third patron is actress and drama teacher Frances Simon, who moved to York with her family from London 14 years ago. She studied at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art, in London, and played the Angel Gabriel in the 2012 York Mystery Plays in the Museum Gardens.
Frances has been a great supporter of the JoRo, attending many shows and teaching many youngsters who have appeared on the theatre’s stage.
A passionate advocate of the benefits of theatre to young people, she is the director of Frances Simon Speech and Drama Coaching; teaches speech and drama at St Peter’s School, York, and is a LAMDA coach at York Theatre Royal and Stagecoach Performing Arts.
While the JoRo is looking back and toasting the successes of the past 85 years today, it must look to the future too. Hence the launch of the Raise The Roof campaign to raise £90,000 to fund the shortfall in savings available to meet the costs of repairing the roofs after more than eight decades without needing any such major repairs.
During the course of this campaign, new volunteer Hannah Wakelam has taken on the role of the JoRo’s first Young Ambassador.
Musical theatre performer Hannah, 20, so far has helped to raise hundreds of pounds by initiating fundraising projects, most notably organising this autumn’s online contest, Yorkshire’s Got Talent, won by York College actor-musician Ed Atkin, 17, in October. Now she is in the process of selling tickets for a grand Christmas raffle.
The JoRo trustees hope more young people will follow Hannah’s lead by coming forward to play their part, inspired by the opportunities that the theatre gives them, both on and off the stage.
GREEN Hammerton company Badapple Theatre are to present their only indoor performances of 2020 at a socially distanced Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, on December 5 and 6, subject to updated Covid-19 Government measures.
Danny Mellor and Anastasia Benham will resume their stage partnership in artistic director Kate Bramley’s The Snow Dancer, the Christmas show they toured last year, concluding at Yarm Fellowship Hall on December 29 2019.
In September, they teamed up again for outdoor performances of the premiere of Mellor’s play, Suffer Fools Gladly, as part of Badapple’s 21st anniversary celebrations.
Mellor’s quick-moving, quick-witted hour-long comedy delighted in testing and tracing the merits of always having to tell the truth: a compulsion from which our parliamentarians seem to be socially distanced, alas.
Now, Badapple are fundraising to support the performers in the Covid-secure performances of The Snow Dancer through a Crowdfunder appeal that will run until November 30.
At the JoRo theatre, newly equipped with chair wraps to denote the socially-distanced seating plan, Mellor and Benham will stage writer-director Bramley’s cautionary global-warming tale, set in the Great Wood, where something is awry.
The animals are desperate for sleep, but with the onset of climate change, the weather is just too warm. Step in Mellor and Benham’s intrepid heroes, who decide they must seek out the mysterious Snow Dancer if there is to be any chance of ever making it snow for Christmas.
“I’ve worked on a lot of Christmas stories in the past, so even though this one is completely original and doesn’t follow an existing story, there are still recognisable elements,” says Kate.
“We have Ida the March Hare, who is a meddling villain, for example. But, if anything, it’s a classic ‘quest’ story, where the children head off through the woods to save the world and encounter a few setbacks on the way.”
Among those to lend their support to the Crowdfunder appeal is Emmerdale actor Jonny McPherson, who plays Liam Cavanagh in the long-running Yorkshire soap, having appeared in two Badapple productions.
“My absolute pleasure. Least I could do for a wonderful company which has provided me with a some of the most memorable experiences of my life,” says Jonny, who has been tweeting his backing. “Wouldn’t be where I am today without you all. Good luck.”
McPherson toured with Badapple to some of the smallest venues in Yorkshire with the Theatre On Your Doorstep specialists, starring in the one-man show An Honorary Yorkshireman: The James Herriot Story and the original 2012 tour of Bramley’s hit musical Eddie And The Gold Tops.
Tickets for The Snow Dancer on December 5 at 2.30pm and 7.30pm and December 6 at 1pm and 6pm will go on sale on December 2 via josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk, pending the Government loosening Lockdown 2 restrictions.
THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, has received two grants to help to ensure it will meet Coronavirus recommendations and be Covid-secure with Good To Go status on reopening, whenever that may be.
The Heworth ward committee of City of York Council has donated £4,940; the Theatres Trust, £3,000.
As the JoRo theatre, in Haxby Road, started to make plans to reopen and reorganise the auditorium seating, the social distancing of patrons was of paramount importance.
The Heworth ward grant has facilitated the purchase of 260 Covid-19 distancing chair wraps to block off unavailable seats, ensuring that household bubbles will be kept a safe distance apart from each other.
The wraps will allow for complete flexibility of seating layouts from one performance to the next as they can be repositioned easily.
Dan Shrimpton, chair of the JoRo’s board of trustees, says: “We understand the caution of some people about returning to live-entertainment venues.
“These covers will mean our audience will be able to access their bubble area quickly and safely without coming into close contact with others. We’d like to say a very big thank-you to the ward committee from all of us at the theatre.”
The Theatre Trust grant will go towards reopening costs, helping to fund the acquisition of equipment such as sanitiser stations, signage and screens for backstage, to enable the JoRo’s safe return.
Fundraising and events director Graham Mitchell says: “We need to make sure that our venue is abiding by all of the current recommendations for theatres.
“The costs associated with reopening are significant and, of course, we haven’t had any income for many months. We are very grateful to the Theatres Trust for their continued support.”
Only last month, the JoRo announced it had exceeded its fundraising target of £10,000 in a national campaign being run by the Theatres Trust to support theatres nationwide.
This money will be used to fund day-to-day running costs, instead of using up cash savings earmarked previously for essential repair work.
THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre has exceeded its ambitious £10,000 fundraising target, launched through the Theatres Trust’s national crowdfunding campaign.
The Haxby Road theatre, in York, was one of the first to sign up for a scheme designed to raise valuable funds to support theatres throughout the country.
Graham Mitchell, the JoRo’s fundraising and events director, says: “The fact that 165 supporters have donated to this campaign over just 41 days shows just how much this theatre and its survival means to the people of York and the surrounding area.
“In total, including Gift Aid, we’ve raised the incredible total of £10,377.50. Fundraising during a pandemic has certainly been a challenge and we want to say a huge, huge ‘Thank you’ to all those who have pledged an amount, large or small. We did it!”
Some donations went towards specific “rewards” on the Crowfunder page, such as theatre teddy bears, personal theatre tours and afternoon teas on the stage.
Other benefits available included Friends’ memberships and sponsored seats, both still for sale via the JoRo’s website, josephrowntreetheatre.co.uk/saveourtheatre.
The JoRo prides itself on being a strong community hub, a venue run for the community by the community. “Our income, however, has been decimated since lockdown, meaning that savings originally earmarked for vital repairs are now being used to fund day-to-day expenses,” says Graham.
THE Joseph Rowntree Theatre, York, has appointed Hannah Wakelam as its first Young Ambassador.
Musical theatre performer Hannah, 19, was responsible for setting up and running the online Yorkshire’s Got Talent contest reached its final last weekend, won by York performer and composer Ed Atkin.
Through this virtual contest and other online competitions, Hannah raised more than £1,200 for the Haxby Road theatre’s £90,000 Raise Tthe Roof appeal and boosted the theatre’s youth following.
She approached the JoRo theatre early on in its campaign to suggest ways she could help in raising funds for the roof appeal for the Art Deco building. The Yorkshire’s Got Talent online contest quickly attracted entrants and followers and membership of its Facebook group surged to almost 4,000.
Graham Mitchell, the JoRo’s events and fundraising director, says: “Hannah’s enthusiasm and support for our cause are infectious. She’s achieved huge things in a short space of time and has brought the theatre’s Raise The Roof appeal to the attention of thousands of people.”
In recognition of those achievements, the theatre has decided to name Hannah as its first Young Ambassador. “This new role will see Hannah supported by the board of trustees as she continues to raise awareness of the theatre among younger theatregoers,” says Graham.
A delighted Hannah says: “The support for the Yorkshire’s Got Talent competition and the money it raised blew me away! I absolutely love this theatre, I’ve performed in it so many times and we need it to survive so that it can exist as a training ground for young people, both on and off stage.”
Although Yorkshire’s Got Talent may be over, Hannah continues to work with the theatre’s fundraising and marketing teams, creating online content for Facebook and Instagram.
Video tours of the JoRo will be available to view soon, seen through Hannah’s eyes and in her words, and soon too she will be launching a huge raffle for the appeal. Already she is on the lookout for prize donations.
Highlighting the opportunities that the JoRo offers to young people, only last week York-born actor David Bradley lent his support to the roof appeal.
“The Joseph Rowntree Theatre has been a vital part of the city for many years,” says the Harry Potter and Game Of Thrones star. “I know from personal experience that it has provided opportunities for so many young people and I will always be grateful for that. I fully support the Raise The Roof appeal and wish it every success.”
Last Sunday’s Yorkshire’s Got Talent final was decided by a public poll, the contest judges and six other West End and Broadway industry professionals. Ed Atkin emerged as the winner, beating Fladam (silly-song duo Florence Poskitt and Adam Sowter) and Jordan Wright.
The judges were Wakefield performer Laura Pick, who was playing Elphaba in Wicked in the West End until lockdown, West End regular and cruise ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge and Ripon vocal coach Amelia Urukalo.
Industry professionals involved in judging were Rachel Tucker, Kerry Ellis, Natalie Paris, Matthew Croke, Nicholas McClean and Paul Taylor-Mills.