The Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, Sir Gary Verity, has officially opened our new Georgian Theatre Experience.
Set to become one of the region’s key heritage tourist attractions, The Georgian Theatre Experience offers a fascinating insight into the history of Britain’s most complete Georgian playhouse and what life was like in a leading 18th century provincial town.
The project has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund and a generous legacy from Paul Iles, a former associate director of the Theatre, totalling over £500,000. It includes a redeveloped exhibition area behind the stage, and the creation of a new education and learning centre adjacent to the theatre in Friars Wynd.
As well as taking a guided tour of the theatre itself – looking inside dressing rooms, discovering hidden trap doors and treading the boards of its historic stage – visitors will be able to spend time in the new exhibition centre. This includes interactive displays, digital presentations and a range of exhibits relating to the theatre and the important part it played in Richmond’s illustrious Georgian past.
A key exhibit is the Woodland Scene, acknowledged to be Britain’s oldest surviving scenery set, painted between 1818 and 1836. Thanks to a second grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for £71,000, it has now been restored and exhibited to museum grade standards. The new interpretation, enhanced through bespoke lighting and display casing, enables visitors to view and understand this scenery like never before.
Sir Gary Verity, Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire, said: “I am delighted to be opening The Georgian Theatre Experience, which promises to be a fantastic addition to Richmond and Yorkshire tourism as a whole.
“The Georgian Theatre Royal is a beautiful building, and as Britain’s most complete Georgian playhouse, it has a rich and fascinating history, which visitors will now be able to discover for themselves.”
In addition to the daily tours, the support from the Heritage Lottery Fund has enabled the Theatre to plan a full programme of activities and events throughout the year, including talks and workshops.
There will also be special days for families during the school holidays, featuring children’s activities, as well as a range of talks and events. The first of these will be a major part of Richmond’s forthcoming Georgian festival, GeorgeFest 16, which takes place between 15 August and 2 September.
As an extra resource, the theatre has been able to update its extensive archive which includes playbills, images and scripts from the different eras of its history. It is currently accessible to the public by appointment, but large sections of it will be available online.
“After many months of planning and building work, we are delighted to unveil this exciting new attraction, drawing visitors from miles around, and appeal to all ages,” said The Georgian Theatre Royal's Chief Executive, Clare Allen. “The theatre has always been a key tourist destination in the area with its popular guided tours but we look forward to welcoming even more people through our doors in the years ahead.”
Malcolm Bryant, Chair of the Theatre’s Board of Trustees said: “We would like to offer sincere thanks to all those who have contributed to this fantastic project, including the contractors, designers, archivists, staff and in particular our exceedingly knowledgeable, voluntary tour guides. We are also very grateful to both The Heritage Lottery Fund and the late Paul Iles for the generous financial contributions that have made this ambitious redevelopment plan possible.”