Happy 85th birthday to the Joseph Rowntree Theatre today…

The logo for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s 85th anniversary in York

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.

The cutting from the Yorkshire Herald, reporting on the opening of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, or Joseph Rowntree Hall as it was first called. Founder Mr Seebohm Rowntree is second from the left in the line-up

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 publicity@jrtheatre.co.uk 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.

“The Joseph Rowntree Theatre has been a vital part of the city for so many years,” says patron David Bradley

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.”

Ian Kelsey: New patron of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

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 Simon: Actress, teacher and new patron of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre

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.

Hannah Wakelam: Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s first Young Ambassador

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.

Happy birthday: The Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s 85th anniversary teddy bear and York illustrator Elliot Harrison’s new retro card in the style of vintage railway posters

After talent contest, Rowntree Theatre appoints Hannah as Young Ambassador

Hannah Wakelam: The Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s inaugural Young Ambassador

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.

For 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: https://www.justgiving.com/campaign/Raise-the-Roof

Ed and shoulders above the rest as Atkin wins Yorkshire’s Got Talent competition

ED Atkin has won Yorkshire’s Got Talent, the online contest organised by York teenage musical actor Hannah Wakelam in aid of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s £90,000 Raise The Roof appeal.

After weeks of searching for “the best talent that Yorkshire can offer”, the judges combined yesterday with guest panellists and the public to vote for the winner from a final three of Atkin, Jordan Wright and Fladam (the silly-song double act of Florence Poskitt and pianist Adam Sowter).

Donations and entry fees saw this fundraiser reach its £1,000 target, and if you have not donated yet, you can still do so by visiting: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Yorkshiresgottalent.

Judging the competition from the start were Wicked star in the West End, Laura Pick, cruise-ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge and vocal coach Amelia Urukalo.

Ed Atkin last appeared on a York stage in Pick Me Up Theatre’s Covid-curtailed production of Tom Midnight’s Garden at Theatre @41 Monkgate in March, playing Peter and composing the score too.

Who will win Yorkshire’s Got Talent? Find out at 8pm tonight after votes close at 7pm

Glittering prize: Today is judgement day for Yorkshire’s Got Talent

WHO will win Yorkshire’s Got Talent, the contest organised by York teenage musical actor Hannah Wakelam in aid of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre’s £90,000 Raise The Roof appeal.

Today is the final of this online competition, and the choice lies between Fladam (the silly-song double act of Florence Poskitt and pianist Adam Sowter), Ed Atkin and Jordan Wright.

Hannah has created a poll for public votes that will be combined with the judges’ votes (each one classed as 25 votes) and guest panel votes (each worth 20 votes).

Judging the competition from the start have been Wicked star Laura Pick, cruise-ship vocal captain Nathan Lodge and vocal coach Amelia Urukalo

Voting closes today at 7pm and the winner will be announced at 8pm. To vote, go to: https://www.facebook.com/.groups/.687590815139642/.permalink/.755696498329073/.

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.

“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/.