Joseph Rowntree Theatre is part of a national initiative launched by Theatres Trust to prevent the permanent closure of hundreds of UK theatres.
Our theatre is the heart of community theatre in York. It welcomes a wide range of different shows throughout the year. We play a vital role in our community.
Why are we crowdfunding?
The theatre’s activities have been decimated by the pandemic, with all scheduled events cancelled because of the forced closure. Events lost include touring professional performers, local group productions, the ever popular pantomime and the biennial Scouts & Guides Gang Show.
The closure has resulted in a devastating drop in income; 90% of our projected income for April to December 2020 has been lost. The pandemic has had a massive impact on our theatre.
The pandemic has also badly impacted on our plans for the future. Money set aside to improve facilities is having to be used to keep the theatre operational. Without your support the future success of the theatre as an active social hub for the community it serves is at risk.
We still intend to continue with our plans but we have to meet our significant ongoing costs, which is forcing us to use up our financial reserves. We need your help to avoid a significant delay in our improvement plans. Every pound donated really does make a difference.
£10,000 would help us by replacing the income we have lost and to ready ourselves for reopening so that you can enjoy our shows again.
We all love the Joseph Rowntree Theatre and what it means to our local community, so please help us today. With your support the Joseph Rowntree Theatre will reopen its doors and be there for many future generations of audiences, performers and everyone involved in making theatre happen.
Why is the Joseph Rowntree Theatre important?
Founded on chocolate, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre was commissioned by the Rowntree family for the workers at their chocolate factory. Opened in 1935 it is a beautiful Art Deco building, which stands opposite the original Rowntree factory.
The theatre is captioned No. 2 in the old photograph below, on the right of the picture, it was an integral part of the Rowntree community. The theatre is one of only two facilities that are still used for their original purpose, the other being the swimming pool.
The workers were encouraged to use the theatre for their entertainment, whether watching or actually taking part. The Rowntree Players amateur theatre group, which was formed in 1912, made the theatre it’s home and is still going strong today; performing productions on the very stage where the original chocolate workers once trod the boards!
The first play staged - "Ambrose Applejohn’s Adventure", 27 - 30 November 1935
The Rowntree family built the theatre to be in the very heart of the community, as a place of affordable entertainment and that tradition continues to this day, it is a much loved and valued theatre for everyone to enjoy.
“We have visited often and are always amazed at the standard of productions. The theatre is small and intimate. Children are made welcome. Love it.”
A full house eagerly waiting for Oddsocks Productions to take to the stage
What does the Joseph Rowntree Theatre offer today?
In 2017 the charity purchased the freehold and we now run our much loved community asset with the help of over 170 volunteers aged from 16 to over 90 years and, usually, without any external financial assistance.
As well as providing a place for the local community to take part in cultural activities, we also provide volunteers with the opportunity to learn new skills, from working backstage with our technical equipment and volunteer stage managers, to customer facing roles including running Box Office and Front of House. We give many people first hand experience of working in a theatre. We also offer the opportunity for volunteers to use their skills managing the premises and maintaining the grounds.
Our auditorium comfortably seats 365 patrons with every seat having an uninterrupted view of the stage.
Performing companies, including touring professionals, can stage highly technical shows with multiple scenery changes courtesy of our flying system and the professional standards of our theatre’s volunteers and equipment. The theatre regularly hosts fully staged musicals, plays, operas and operettas, as well as hosting pantomime, gang shows and many dance and drama school exhibitions.
“Lovely intimate theatre offering a great variety of entertainment. Well kept venue and great view wherever you sit in the theatre. Local amateur dramatics groups there so ticket prices are not over inflated either.”
Over the years the Joseph Rowntree Theatre has been a cultural home to generations, where people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities come together.
“Lovely evening at this unique theatre. l have been attending performances from the age of 5 years now nearly 75. l find it still is a great venue for all the various productions.”
The Rowntree Players’ pantomime is very much a local community affair. Written and directed by local artists, the production is suitable for absolutely all ages and is simply all-round good, affordable fun for all. Bringing a large cast with a production to an audience of over 3,500 people over 10 performances.
“The panto at Joseph Rowntree Theatre is always truly family inclusive. This year's production really excelled and the lighting and special effects were brilliant. For a theatre providing a venue for amateurs, and run by volunteers, it is wonderful”
“I took my six year old granddaughter to see the panto last night and she loved it. Amateur dramatics are fantastic, so professional. The facilities here are great and everyone does a great job to ensure you have a great experience. Would highly recommend it.”
Rowntree Players' 2019 Panto"Sinbad" setting sail
Dance and Drama Schools
The first time many young performers take to our stage, we welcome over eight dance and drama schools per year, providing the opportunity to over 500 enthusiastic dancers, singers and actors to take part in performances.
“Another great visit to watch my daughter take part in a dance show. The show was fantastic. The theatre is a great venue. Run and staffed by friendly volunteers. The production quality is very high. We are lucky to have such a place in York.”
Jazz Hands strutting their stuff
The theatre is the performance venue for five local groups who provide performance opportunities for young people to take part in large-scale musical productions. The young performers are given the experience of taking part in shows, working with others and making lifelong friends.
"Cats" performed by York Light Youth
With eight regular production companies taking to the stage with an average of 15 shows per year, our theatre is a hive of performance activity. We offer professional standard facilities providing a venue for performing companies to produce superb performances for all ages.
“The personal impact that being part of this wonderful production has had is something that can’t be measured less easily; in bringing together so many like-minded people, this company has allowed me to push myself beyond the limits I had previously placed upon myself.”
Rowntree Players' production of Neville's Island created a wonderland forest (& lake) on stage.
"Made in Dagenham" finale from Joseph Rowntree Theatre Company (Photo Simon Charles Photography)
York Musical Theatre's production of “Jesus Christ Superstar” set many technical challenges - all were met. (Photo Pink Lily Photography)
Here are some more comments from satisfied customers.
“Amazing value for an excellent live theatre performance.”
“Love this theatre. Comfortable seating and no matter where you sit in the stalls the view is good.”
“A cracker of a theatre with some superb acts taking place throughout the year.”
“Wonderful community theatre. Always friendly and welcoming.”
About Save Our Theatres
In villages, towns and cities across the country, theatres are at the heart of their community. Places to come together, to be inspired and be entertained. Theatres are where our best-loved actors learn their craft and thousands of others learn valuable skills. The Joseph Rowntree Theatre experience has been the starting point for many careers in theatre, cinema & TV, including Olivier and BAFTA Award winners.
We risk losing this forever.
Theatres saw their main source of income disappear in an instant when they closed in March in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Six months later, we still don’t know when they will be able to reopen fully. A decision won’t be made until November at the earliest – too late for most to put on their annual pantomime, which often provides the income to support the theatre for the rest of the year.
This ongoing uncertainty puts theatres in a perilous situation. The government’s bailout is spread across all cultural organisations and certainly won’t be enough to save all of the UK’s theatres.
Every day theatres are facing tough decisions that threaten their existence.
Without urgent support, we could lose our nation’s amazing theatres. Please help us to make sure our theatres survive this crisis and will be there to be enjoyed by future generations.