Happy Birthday New Wolsey Theatre
The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich today marks its 15th Birthday, and they would like to thank all of their friends, sponsors, audiences and participants who have helped them become the award-winning theatre that it is today!
After closing in 1999 as the Wolsey Theatre, they reopened their doors as the New Wolsey Theatre on 1st February 2001 welcoming audiences to the very first performance of Sweeney Todd, under the leadership of Chief Executive Sarah Holmes and Artistic Director Peter Rowe.
Over 15 years: they have sold over 1.5 million tickets; they produce (what they believe to be!) the longest run of panto in the UK; each main season averages at 82% capacity, and they offer approximately 25,000 opportunities for young people a year in their creative learning department.
The theatre has a particular reputation for musical work, often employing actor-musicians. It is increasingly acknowledged as a leading player in the development of new musicals staging the world premieres of It’s A Wonderful Life, 20th Century Boy and Mods & Rox. In 2013, they produced a national tour of the Tim Firth and Madness musical Our House, using the same actor-musician formation; in 2014 they co-produced Brecht and Weill’s The Threepenny Opera alongside Graeae Theatre Company, Nottingham Playhouse, Birmingham Rep and West Yorkshire Playhouse, and in 2015 produced the blockbuster hit Sweet Charity.
The New Wolsey has also established a reputation for artist development, and in particular helping to nurture innovative companies and enabling them to produce work designed for middle scale touring. As part of this development programme, the theatre has worked in association with some of the most exciting and emerging companies in the UK and internationally, including in recent years Gecko, Analogue, Made In China, Annie Siddons, Slunglow, METIS, Transport and John Osborne.
The New Wolsey Theatre received the 2012 TMA award for Most Welcoming Theatre, and was nominated as The Stage Award’s Regional Theatre of the Year 2014. They have received the Trip Advisor Certificate for Excellence three years running for their customer service, and have a Silver Award from Suffolk Carbon Charter for their environmentally friendly procedures and policies. As a not-for-profit organisation and a registered charity, they rely on a variety of incomes streams such as part funding from the Arts Council, Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council as well as donations, individual giving and corporate support; all of which are invaluable.
The theatre has a proven track record of championing disabled led theatre and in 2013 launched ‘Agent for Change’ – an initiative to create more engagement and opportunities for D/deaf and disabled theatre professionals, audience members and participants both at the New Wolsey Theatre and with collaborating partners. In 2015, they joined forces with 6 midscale venues and a consulting partner to create Ramps on the Moon, an Arts Council funded strategic touring project with the aim to increase awareness and participation of D/deaf and disabled actors, artists and audiences.
For the New Wolsey Theatre’s Relaxed Performances they can now install a new platform which dramatically increases the amount of wheelchair spaces available. Funded by the Bradbury Foundation, the Bradbury Platform now offers even more opportunity for audiences to access the theatre as much as possible.
The theatre has a lot to celebrate, and will be announcing plans for 2016 over the next few months.