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New Wolsey leaders to stand down after 21 years

MAtthew Hemley

New Wolsey leadership team Sarah Holmes and Peter Rowe are stepping down from the venue after 21 years in charge.

Chief executive Holmes and artistic director Rowe will leave at the end of March 2022, stating it is time to “hand this opportunity to a new generation of theatremakers”.

In a joint statement, they said: “We have had an exhilarating time in Ipswich making popular, accessible theatre in this unique auditorium for more than 20 years. When we arrived in 2000 the theatre had been closed for 18 months and was in mothballs. We now go into our 2021 autumn season with our new community participation hub NW2, outdoor performance space the Bowl,

a remodelled front of house and a refurbished auditorium once again full of life as we welcome audiences back.”

They added: “As the New Wolsey returns to full strength, and our industry emerges from the challenges of the pandemic, with arts organisations rightly looking to diversify their leadership, it is time to hand this opportunity on to a new generation of theatremakers.”

The theatre’s 2022 programme will highlight Holmes and Rowe’s 21st anniversary in charge with a programme of new plays, a new musical, co-productions and a community play. Holmes and Rowe said their stepping down “provides an appropriate anniversary to bow out and pass on a restored and refreshed organisation to a new team”.

Richard Lister, chair of the New Wolsey Theatre’s board of directors, praised them for running the theatre with “tremendous dedication, energy, flair and skill”.

He said: “As well as creating many memorable productions, they have created and driven major national initiatives such as Ramps on the Moon, which has inspired an industry-wide change in the employment of deaf and disabled people,” he said.

He added that under their leadership the theatre had become “an essential part of the local, regional and national theatre landscape”.

“They have given Ipswich a theatre to be proud of – one of national importance. We offer our thanks and look forward to continuing the journey of this organisation with a new generation of leaders,” he said.

Anonymous theatre company launched to explore controversial topics

Giverny Masso

An anonymous theatre company has been launched to provide a platform for writers to explore controversial topics. The company, Whatsitsface, will present its debut show Boy Who Cried Woof at Camden People’s Theatre in London this month.

Running as part of the venue’s Sprint Festival, the one-person show explores sex addiction and draws on the writer’s experiences.

Whatsitsface plans to work with emerging writers who want to explore controversial, political or challenging social issues while protecting their identity.

A company spokesperson said: “We can’t wait to craft out this new space for voices that otherwise wouldn’t be heard, like Boy Who Cried Woof, as well as many more to come.

“We were moved to tears during the rehearsal process because the topics explored by this show are something many can relate to, but will never speak about it, and we’re so excited to share it.”

The team behind Whatsitsface will also keep their identities secret. A representative said the company had a “diverse team, reflective of the stories [it is] presenting”.

They added: “We are developing a piece of work for 2022 that could get us into hot water with a foreign government. From this, a model grew in which an anonymous identity would protect artists involved for all Whatsitsface productions. It provides a platform for writers and artists to speak freely and frankly. As the past few years have shown, freedom of speech is a fragile thing and cancel culture has prevented us from having some important conversations. From what we know, we’re the first people to operate a theatre company in this model, but we’ve been inspired by many anonymous and brilliant artists.”

The company’s identity will be at the forefront of all publicity and marketing, meaning the creative teams and actors will not be named.

Whatsitsface’s website will share details of other upcoming projects and any future opportunities for submissions.

Derelict Hulme Hippodrome given community value status

Giverny Masso

Campaigners fighting to save the deteriorating Hulme Hippodrome before it becomes “derelict beyond repair” have made a big step forward, after the building was listed as an asset of community value.

The status, awarded by Manchester City Council, gives campaign group Save the Hulme Hippodrome the legal right to a sixmonth pause in any sale by the theatre’s current owner to allow the organisation to raise the funds to bid for it. Protecting the theatre for the next five years, the asset of community value status also recognises the cultural and social role of the Hippodrome to the community.

Located one mile south of Manchester city centre, the grade II-listed Edwardian theatre includes a main auditorium, which can seat up to 1,900 people, and the adjacent Floral Hall, which can seat another 1,000. These areas are currently disused.

They are attached to a separate, smaller twin theatre called the Playhouse, which is run by arts and cultural centre NIAMOS.

The Hulme Hippodrome has been on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register since it began in 2006 and Save the Hulme Hippodrome has warned the building “will not last another winter”.

Made up of local community members, the organisation is lobbying to obtain ownership of the building and restore it to enable the return of live performance.

However, the legal ownership of Hulme Hippodrome is currently in dispute. Built in 1902, the Hippodrome was last used for performance in the 1960s and then for bingo from the mid-1970s until 1986.

In 2003, evangelist group Gilbert Deya Ministries purchased the building and was operating from its foyer. In 2017, Manchester City Council served the organisation with a Dangerous Buildings Notice and closed the theatre. According to Save the Hulme Hippodrome, the building was then involved in two attempted sales.

The Theatres Trust said: “We have been working with Save the Hulme Hippodrome providing advice and support to its campaign to protect and secure the future of the building for the local community.”

September 30 2021

heatres and performance venues in Northern Ireland will be allowed to play to full-capacity audiences from September 30 following a relaxation of social distancing rules. The decision to remove the one-metre distancing requirements that prevented some venues from reopening, and forced others to play to reduced numbers, was taken by the Northern Ireland Executive on September 27. More than 200 people attended a protest calling on Thurrock Council to save the Thameside Theatre from closure, after it was declared “surplus to requirements”. The protest was organised by the Save the Thameside Complex campaign, which is composed of local residents and creative groups. Playwrights’ Studio Scotland has increased its level of grants and bursaries as well as adding funding for mentorships, as it aims to bolster support for creatives following the pandemic.

ALSO ONLINE appointments

A planning application has been submitted to revive the former Assembly Hall in Framlingham, which has since housed an antiques dealership, as a 90-seat theatre. According to architects Paper House, the aim “is to achieve socially responsible and neighbourly development, with lasting social value”. Megan Swann, aged 28, has become the first woman and youngest person to be elected president of the Magic Circle in its 116-year history. Playwright Shahid Iqbal Khan has been appointed to a year-long writing attachment with the Royal Court in London and theatre company Graeae. Blayne George and Alison Holder are to lead creative training organisation the Mono Box, as founders Polly Bennett and Joan Iyiola step down.

Shoreditch Town Hall has appointed Ellie Browning, who was previously at interactive theatre company Coney, as head of cultural programme.

Journalist and writer Rosie Millard has been announced as chair of the board for London International Festival of Theatre.

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