Back Together with Royal & Derngate: How We Can Support Local Theatres

The shows must go on! 

I feel my fingers are on a typing tangent after reading a heartbreaking statement from my beloved theatre, The Royal & Derngate in Northampton. It’s the first time I’ve seen something on social media that has just made my heart (and head) pour with words that I have to get out there. 

So before I do go off on a tangent, let me update you:

Due to the on-going effects of Covid-19, Royal & Derngate made a statement today following the government’s announcement last week that further guidance on theatres operating indoors without social distancing in place will not be released before November at the earliest, Royal & Derngate and Qdos Pantomimes have reached the difficult decision that this year’s Derngate pantomime will not be going ahead as planned.

This means their annual Christmas pantomime, Dick Whittington has to be rescheduled for December 2021 and the same for their Made in Northampton Christmas show. 

Plus, the news was sadly coupled with the regrettable news that Royal & Derngate have entered into redundancy consultations with a number of employees as a result of the ongoing impact of COVID-19 upon the theatre sector. 

My heart goes out to every single person who works at the theatre and I can’t imagine what everyone is going through. 

We are lucky to have lots of theatre venues here in Northamptonshire, but I have my personal reasons why Royal & Derngate will always have such a special place in my heart.

As a Musical Theatre graduate, I have seen the effects of how the closure of the theatre industry has impacted on my friends.

Those who have no idea when they’ll next go on stage, be next signed to a performing contract on cruise ships or holiday parks, or when they’ll be back to working behind the scenes of the theatre in costume, stage management and even all those who work as ticket operators and more. 

Personally, the government does need to do more to help the industry survive and thrive after the impacts of Covid-19, but that is for another debate and my heart boils just thinking about it. 

Did you know that 90% of Royal & Derngate’s funds come from people visiting their venues to watch performances? That’s a lot to lose within one day when the closure of theatres was announced in March. 

I speak highly of this theatre more because I’ve had so many treasured memories here. Growing up, this was my safe haven for when I was being bullied at school. Being the new kid on the block, it was hard to make friends.

2013 performance of Spring Awakening

Joining the Royal & Derngate Youth Theatre was the best decision I ever made because I made some incredible friendships here, some of whom I still keep in touch with and making friends was never difficult – everyone just accepted each other. 

Plus, the performances I got involved in were incredible: from starring in my first big musical theatre role on the Derngate stage at age 15 as Fay Apple in ‘Anyone Can Whistle’, doing an immersive piece of theatre in the underground tunnels of Northampton, devising our own musical piece based on the University riots, to landing another incredible broadway role of Wendla in ‘Spring Awakening’.

Not only that, but I found myself volunteering on numerous occasions as a practitioner during summer schools and half terms, became a Youth Leader for younger groups and at one point, dabbled a bit in the Adults acting group.

But not only this, I have seen some incredible shows performed across the Royal and Derngate stages over the last 13 years!

All those memories. Happy, joyful memories.

I could go on and on about how much this theatre means to me personally, but I want to encourage YOU, yes, you reading this, that there are still ways you can support your local theatres and not just Royal & Derngate.

Theatres across the country are suffering the consequences of COVID and some have sadly closed down due to it, but there is still hope for those theatres who have a chance of surviving this and hopefully with the government’s Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund and the support of locals, things might just become better. 

Here’s how we can continue to support our local theatres when they are currently not open, with no certainty on when they will be open again: 

Purchase gift cards or vouchers – This means you’re actively putting funds back into the theatre, but it can also mean buying a future gift for someone (or even for yourself) for when theatres do re-open again. 

Make a donation – consider any donation of any size, as it could make so much difference. Donate to the Royal & Derngate here.

Buy tickets for future performances – I know this might seem like a worrying thing, but there’s still so many shows that are planned to go ahead from Spring 2021 and there is still hope that the shows will go on. 

Buy a membership card – so many theatres, including R&D, do this where if you’re a frequent theatre visitor, you can buy a membership card which gives you discounts, priority bookings and much more. You can check R&D’s out here. 

Name a seat – again so many theatres offer this, but R&D can name a seat after someone for you for £250, whether you’re looking for a unique gift for yourself or someone else, or in memory of a loved one. Check it out here. 

Commercial opportunities – if you’re a local business, theatres like R&D have commercial opportunities that are beneficial for advertising in theatre programmes and other ways that can showcase your business, whilst you’re also helping to fund the activities that go on. Read more here.

Local theatres need our help more than ever as there is nothing quite like the thrill, excitement and joy you feel when you take your seat for the first time to watch a show. 

It’s also essential that theatre programmes that run at these venues like youth theatres continue too; without this, children will no longer be able to express themselves, feel the joy of performing on stage and I believe getting involved with youth theatre was a crucial part of my growing up.

I am sending all my love, thoughts and prayers to all the staff members, volunteers, creatives and more who work in the theatre industry. I hope there will be a light at the end of this and I hope we will be able to enjoy theatre again once more.

Please consider supporting your local theatre venues however you can. Can you imagine a life without performance? 


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