As proud supporters of the theatre which is at the heart of Harrogate and its cultural offer, we were invited to enjoy a pantomime performance of Snow White, along with the great and the good of Harrogate’s business community.
And a cracking show it was, featuring a talented cast including Harrogate panto favourite Tim Stedman and the marvellous Howard Chadwick as the extravagantly costumed dame. With superb sets and chuckles aplenty, it’s no wonder Harrogate panto won national recognition with a Great British Pantomime Award last year.
After the show we joined theatre trustees, ‘Happy Harry’ and the rest of the panto cast (pictured) at an after-show celebration of the landmark anniversary.
To mark the occasion, here’s seven things you might not know about Harrogate Theatre:
- The first ever pantomime was Dick Whittington in January 1900 just after Harrogate Theatre opened for the first time
- Originally known as The Grand Opera House, the theatre was designed by architect Frank Tugwell who also designed the Futurist Theatre in Scarborough and the Savoy Theatre in London
- The carved frieze in the foyer was not part of the original décor. Sculpted by Frances Darlington, it depicts themes from drama and literature and is thought to have been added shortly before 1911
- Harrogate Theatre is said to have its own ghost, named Alice. The victim of a terrible love affair, she is said to haunt the stalls and linked to reports of orbs of hovering light, sudden chills, ghostly spirits and the lingering scent of peppermint
- The theatre has closed twice in its history; first in the mid-1950s due to a decline in audience numbers due to the growing popularity of television (in 1955 Harrogate Opera House closed for three years). Secondly, in the mid-80s – due to a funding crisis – the theatre closed for a period of reorganisation, reopening in 1987
- Harrogate (White Rose) Theatre Trust is a charity. The theatre reopened after the first closure in 1958 as Harrogate Theatre and soon after a non-profit making charitable trust was set up to run it. Harrogate Borough Council bought the building and became the theatre’s landlord, which they still are today
- In the early 1970s Harrogate Theatre underwent a programme of refurbishment and alteration. At this time the seating capacity in the auditorium was reduced to 481 from 800 (the original capacity had been 1,300), the balcony was reduced to two rows and the maze of corridors and small cafes and bars were opened out to form the current stalls and circle bars.