For our recent Member Spotlight feature, we heard from Robert O’Dowd, Chief Executive of the Rose Theatre, as they reopened their doors after lockdown and looked ahead to planned shows over the Christmas period. This piece was written before Tier 3 restrictions were announced.
“The Rose is one of the five biggest non-commercial producing theatres in London. Founded by Sir Peter Hall in 2008 it is also one of the youngest. Yet it has fast established itself as one of the most prominent and exciting venues in the city – providing a home for exceptional theatrical, musical and comic talent. The Rose also has one of the largest youth theatres in the country with over 1,200 young people attending every year to engage in a wide range of classes and performances.
In its twelve years the Rose has established itself as the cultural heart of the Royal Borough of Kingston and to our surrounding boroughs. In 2020 we appointed a new artistic director to further strengthen our producing capacity and capabilities.
But then COVID struck with our PM’s famous speech: “Theatres do not need to close, but audiences do not go to theatres”. This luckily was clarified, but even then a few interesting guidelines were issued once we were allowed to start reopening, such as “musicals are allowed but the actors cannot sing”!
That said, the government’s CJRS scheme has been a life saver for the arts and to date we have not had to make anyone redundant. The Rose is completely reliant on its staff so this support has been invaluable to our survival and our future. Then there was the amazing Culture Recovery Fund totalling £1.5bn, an unprecedented show of support in arts and culture from any UK government. We applied to the scheme and secured 100% of our ask.
Locally the Royal Borough of Kingston have also shown huge support and have clearly shown that they believe that culture should and will be at the heart of the recovery, and then the economic growth of the borough. We did reopen in October on a socially distanced model that meant our capacity dropped from 820 to 350 seats. But we managed to programme within these guidelines and implemented a raft of COVID safety measures. We reopened with Educating Rita to full houses and across-the-board feedback of how safe the Rose felt. It was a triumph! But then we had to close again for November.
We are through that now and reopen again with Sh!t Actually from 3 – 5 December, and then our Christmas show Stick Man from 10 December – 3 January. The demand for tickets clearly shows how keen our patrons are to return and see shows even if in this odd, distanced manner.
One thing that has blown me away is the love, loyalty and support of our patrons, both in buying tickets and supporting the Rose through our fundraising campaign #RoseEndures.
Thank you and see you at the Rose soon.”
We love to hear from our members how things are going. If you’re interested in contributing a Member Spotlight blog, which is often featured in our member and consumer newsletters, please contact joelle.fry@kingtonfirst.