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Exploring The Evolution Of Hertford Theatre

We chat to Hertford Theatre’s Rebecca Butcher about their Christmas plans, closing their doors and why they will still be busy in 2022

During the various lockdowns we have experienced since early 2020, were you busy working on Hertford Theatre’s Growth & Legacy Project behind the scenes?

Yes, we’ve been working on our Growth & Legacy Project for about five years, long before COVID – and during this last year, we’ve finally begun the project on site.

What kind of things does the Project include?
In the plans for the project is the addition of a first floor, which will house three new, full time cinema screens, which means first release film is coming to Hertford. We’ll also gain an upstairs bar and new dance studio along with balcony seating in our main auditorium, increasing the capacity from 408 to 550. Downstairs we’ll also have a new studio theatre for around 150 people, which is really exciting, and an improved kitchen café, as well as rooms for hire for our community. Outside, we’ll be opening up our river frontage with a new walkway and improving access to the historical motte which is just behind us.

Rebecca Butcher
Rebecca Butcher

Was it still tough to close your doors to the public?
Closing our doors was really tough. On a daily basis, we were a hub for so many people, whether that was popping in for a chat over a coffee, meeting up with other mums in those first early months with a new-born or attending a dementia friendly screening – closing our doors meant our community was without us. But, we had so many lovely messages of support, we decided to start #HugHertfordTheatre and we covered our windows in audience photos of happy times at the theatre, letters, poems and drawings. We’ve put them all online now so the gallery can be viewed by everyone at hertfordtheatre.com/events/whats-on/354/hughertfordtheatre.

You’re still collaborating on a Christmas show this year. What can we expect from Under The Frozen Moon?
Under The Frozen Moon is a lovely folktale live show by award-winning Half A String theatre company and we’re so excited to be able to bring something to local families this Christmas. You can expect an immersive, theatrical frozen-folktale as we’re bringing the world of Lunavik, where the show is set, to life throughout the building. It’s going to be great and something really unique.

Is Southern Maltings a great venue to stage this in?
Southern Maltings is a community venue, run by volunteers, and although they have lots of fantastic events every week, they’ve not put on anything like this for a longer period of time. So we’re really pleased to be working with them, skill sharing and excited to see what we can create together.

How long have you lived in Ware and what do you love most about it?
I have lived in Ware since Christmas 2019, so the majority of my time here has been under the cloud of COVID. I grew up in Hertford though and have family all over locally, so I already knew Ware well and, actually, I was secretly pleased to have that extra time and excuse in lockdown to go out walking every day and getting to know our neighbours. I think under “normal” circumstances that wouldn’t have happened.

Are there any places that truly come alive in the area at Christmas?
Van Hage is always worth a visit at Christmas. It’s an entirely nostalgic visit for me too – all those lovely visits to Father Christmas and the ice rink as a child! A walk along Ware High Street to see the famous lantern lights is a really festive way to spend an evening, ending up in one of the many pubs for a mulled wine perhaps, and I’m looking forward to the Christmas Tree Festival at Leaside Church too.

Under Frozen Moon
Under The Frozen Moon

Can you pick out your three favourite local places?
That’s really hard! But my go-to places in Ware are Sugar & Scoop for all my refill needs. They opened during lockdown and everyone loves them! Bridget’s Tea Room by ASL in Ware Priory grounds is a great place to meet friends or colleagues when I’m working from home and they have delicious vegan savoury snacks. For the last six years, Studio Fly is where I’ve spent most of my evenings, learning aerial and now I’m an instructor there too, teaching aerial yoga. With so many classes for all abilities and interests, it’s the best place to keep you strong, fit and happy.

What does Hertford Theatre have planned for 2022?
Hertford Theatre has a long list of activity planned for 2022, some of it to do with our Growth & Legacy Development, but we also know how important it is to keep bringing fantastic entertainment and opportunity to engage with the arts for all ages to the local area. We were awarded funding from Royal Opera House Bridge Project to consult with local schools with our Associate Artist Stuart Mullins, discovering how we can help improve the well-being of children and young people in a post-pandemic world. It’s been really interesting to hear what issues our schools are facing and how the arts can play an integral part in addressing some of these issues. We’ll be “popping” up at various locations throughout the year, collaborating and working towards reopening, which is really exciting.

hertfordtheatre.com

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