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Jan 15th

Spring Season at the Finborough Theatre

By Carolin Kopplin

The Spring Season at the Finborough Theatre continues its acclaimed artistic policy with new writing including four world premieres, controversial political theatre, classic rediscoveries which this season celebrate their local Victorian heritage, music theatre, productions linked to one current event (the general election) and two anniversaries (the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, and the Armenian Genocide), and the return of three of the theatre's occasional series – Celebrating British Music Theatre, TheGreatWar100 and FINBOROUGHFORUM which this season will be podcast for the first time.

The season opens with two world premieres. Set within the ‘cosplay’ subculture of 21st Century Japan, Francios Turnly’s Harajuku Girls plays for four weeks from 24 February to 21 March 2015. Running alongside it, Chicken Dust, the professional debut of new playwright Ben Weatherill, plays on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays, 1 to 17 March.

In March and April, the Finborough celebrates the work of residents local to the Finborough Theatre, presenting the first London production in twenty years of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Princess Ida from 24 March to 18 April. Tom Taylor’s Our American Cousin is the play Abraham Lincoln was watching when he was assassinated, and plays on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays between 29 March and 14 April in honour of the 150th anniversary of his death.

The season culminates in April-May with two world premieres of hard-hitting political drama – I Wish to Die Singing – Voices from the Armenian Genocide, devised by Finborough Theatre Artistic Director Neil McPherson, runs for four weeks from 21 April to 16 May. It is accompanied on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays 26 April to 12 May by A New Play for the General Election, written in response to events as they happen by Chris Dunkley and Chris New. The FINBOROUGHFORUM, the theatre's occasional series of debates and discussions, returns for the general election with events after every performance on Sunday and Monday evenings between 26 April and 11 May.

For full information, please visit

Dec 18th

Spring Cook Up at the Battersea Arts Centre

By Carolin Kopplin


This spring Battersea Arts Centre delves into the human psyche with a season of work exploring our understanding of who we are, memory and its fallibility and the power of our dreams. Blurring and blending artistic disciplines, this journey into our consciousness will be thoroughly thought-provoking fare from some of our most invigorating theatre-makers.

The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland | Ridiculusmus | 3 – 14 Feb |
Back due to popular demand, long-established humorists Ridiculusmus return to Battersea Arts Centre to continue their investigations into the human mind. The Eradication… is a black comedy 
inspired by Open Dialogue, a treatment for psychosis based on talking rather than medicating, a method that has almost eradicated schizophrenia in Finland, and is currently being trialled by NHS trusts around the UK. Conceived as a piece of virtuistic stagecraft cut through with auditory hallucinations, the audience are split in two by a dividing wall with scenes from a mother’s kitchen and therapist’s office performed simultaneously on either side to captivating and disorientating effect.

If I Cover My Nose You Can’t See Me | Polarbear | 16 – 21 Feb | 
Polarbear, aka Steven Camden, is one of the UK’s leading spoken word artists and the author of Tape, the critically-acclaimed novel for young adults. His performances are unique and unflinchingly honest, as words and rhyme drawn from his Hip-Hop roots combine with the day-to-day expression of a man trying to figure things out. In recent years he has focused on making shows for and with children at Battersea Arts Centre (Mouth Open, Story Jump Out) but this spring he revives his first full-length monologue written in 2008 and performed only a handful of times, the story of a 28 year-old man stuck in a job he never wanted and a 10-year-old boy looking for answers.

Songs of Lear | Song of the Goat | 19 – 22 Feb 
The Polish company Song of the Goat, widely regarded as one of Europe’s most innovative training-based theatre companies, return to Battersea Arts Centre with the London premiere of Songs of Lear after having entranced audiences with Return to the Voice earlier this year. Songs of Lear was widely acclaimed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2012 where it scooped both a Fringe First and Herald Archangel Award. This is the quintessence of Lear, distilled to its core essentials. Twelve dramatic compositions paint the landscape of Lear with sounds, as voice and song combine to tell Shakespeare’s finest tragedy with raw emotion and devastating beauty.

Fuel presents Fiction | David Rosenberg & Glen Neath | 3 – 21 Mar |
David Rosenberg (Shunt, Electric Hotel) and writer Glen Neath (Hannah Ringham’s Free Show) return to Battersea Arts Centre with Fiction, a new work created with Dr Tristan Bekinschtein, a leading expert on lucid dreaming at Cambridge University. Following on from Ring, which sold-out multiple runs at Battersea Arts Centre and on tour across the UK, Fiction is a multi-sensory experience inspired by Dr Bekinschtein’s non-classic approach to the study of cognition of consciousness. Using images, light and subliminal messages to manipulate the senses and transport the mind into other dimensions, Fiction will then plunge its audience into complete darkness and into a 3-D sound world created by Olivier Award-winning composers Max and Ben Ringham using binaural technology.

Missing | Gecko | 4 – 21 Mar |
This spring, Gecko take over the largest space, The Grand Hall, thirteen years on from the debut of their international hit Taylor’s Dummies, created through the pioneering Scratch process at Battersea Arts CentreGecko have since toured their brand of visual, visceral and ambitious theatre (The RaceThe Arab and The Jew, The Overcoat) to far-flung corners of the globe leaving time for only brief appearances in the capital, making this three-week run one to anticipate. Set in a whirring modern metropolis, Lily is on a collision course with her past. Her future depends on how much she is willing to remember. Combining exquisite movement with extraordinary visual storytelling, Missing is an unforgettable journey into the depths of memory.

Battersea Arts Centre
Lavender Hill, London SW11 5TN 
ox Office:
 020 7223 2223   
Dec 10th

Southwark Playhouse’s 2015 Spring Season in The Large Announced

By Carolin Kopplin


Two world premieres and one touring production will play between February and April

Previously announced Bat Boy: The Musical will open the season in January

Danielle Tarento in association with Jason Haigh-Ellery presents the world première of GODS AND MONSTERS, based on the novel Fathers of Frankenstein by Christopher Bram. Written and Directed by Russell Labey. Set and costume design by Jason Denvir. Lighting design by Mike Robertson. Sound design by John Chambers. 
Run: Thursday 5 February – Saturday 7 March 2015 

Frankenstein director James Whale, long forgotten by the studios and in reclusive Hollywood retirement has fallen victim to a series of strokes. The only demons he fights now are in his head. Handsome new gardner, Clayton Boone, becomes an unlikely friend and unwitting player in Whale’s grand finale.

Not so much a Hollywood history as a glorious imagining, exploring the sometimes divine, sometimes monstrous landscape of obsession and desire. Based on the novel 
Father of Frankenstein by Christopher Bram - the same source material as for the 1998 Oscar-winning movie, Gods And Monsters.

Two’s Company present the world première of  THE CUTTING OF THE CLOTH by Michael Hastings. Directed by Tricia Thorns.
Run: Wednesday 11 March – Saturday 4 April 2015

The work-room of a Savile Row tailors, 1953. Two master craftsmen at daggers drawn: Polish-born Spijak insists that nothing can beat the excellence of a hand-sewn suit, while Eric uses his machine to work at twice the speed and earn twice the money. Sparks fly as each fights his own corner with biting wit and vicious humour. Into this battleground steps Maurice, a teenager at the very start of his apprenticeship. Will he survive the gruelling training to become a master tailor? Or will he, as Spijak’s daughter urges him to, escape? 

Michael Hastings (1937-2011) was one of the Royal Court’s ‘Angry Young Men’ whose wide-ranging career in theatre, TV and film included such successes as Tom and VivGloo Joo, For The West andCalicoThe Cutting of the Cloth, drawn so much from his youthful experience as an apprentice tailor, has lain in a drawer. Now Two’s Company brings it rampaging on to the stage, following the acclaimedWhat The Women Did earlier this year.

Théâtre Sans Frontières present LORCA: AMOR EN EL JARDÍN (LORCA: LOVE IN THE GARDEN)
An original adaptation by Théâtre Sans Frontières of 'El Amor de Don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardín' by Federico García Lorca. Directed by John Cobb. Set and costume design by Neil Murray. Lighting design by Mark Pritchard.
Run: Tuesday 14 April – Saturday 25 April 2015

An original adaptation of El Amor de Don Perlimplín con Belisa en su Jardín by Federico Garcia Lorca. 

Indulge in a luscious evening of performance, poetry and music inspired by Spain's greatest writer of the 20th century Federico García Lorca. 

In Lorca’s ‘garden of love’, the fantastical story of Don Perlimplín unfolds. A wealthy and studious man, he just wants to spend his days quietly reading books. Reluctantly he is persuaded to marry the gorgeous and much younger Belisa - but what has he let himself in for? 

Théâtre Sans Frontières brings its unparalleled visual and physical style to this passionate and original adaptation. With evocative live music, larger-than-life characters and Lorca's poetry, you'll be seduced by this surreal tale of deceit, disguise and obsession!

As previously announced, opening The Large 2015 spring season is:

Paul Taylor-Mills Ltd presents BAT BOY: THE MUSICAL
Book by Keythe Farley and Brian Flemming. Music and Lyrics by Laurence O'Keefe.

The Off Broadway smash flies in to Southwark Playhouse this January, plunging its fangs into all that has gone before it. From the producer of In The Heights and the creative team behind Carousel at the Arcola, Bat Boy: The Musical promises to be a love child like no other.

Bat Boy: The Musical is inspired by a story run by The Weekly World News, an American tabloid who published fabricated stories which were purported to be factual, describing the discovery of a creature who is ‘half human and half bat’. Bat Boy ran as a cover story on 23 June 1992 and was the second-best selling issue in the paper’s history, instantly becoming a pop-culture icon. It won New York’s Outer Critics Circle and Lucille Lortel Awards for Best Off-Broadway Musical in 2001. It received its UK premiere in 2004 at West Yorkshire Playhouse prior to a West End run at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

Southwark Playhouse
77-85 Newington Causeway
London SE1 6BD

Box office: 020 7407 0234

Dec 9th

The Finborough Presents "Pig Girl" - a Controversial New Play from Canada

By Carolin Kopplin


In a new production commissioned by the Finborough Theatre and originally seen as a staged reading as part of Vibrant– A Festival of Finborough Playwrights, and part of its Winter Season of 20 Premieres, the European premiere of Pig Girl by former Canadian Playwright-in-Residence at the Finborough Theatre, Colleen Murphy, runs at the Finborough Theatre, playing twelve Sunday and Monday evenings from Sunday, 11 January 2015. 

The play was inspired by real events. For eighty-five minutes, a Killer holds a Dying Woman captive in a secluded barn. Their names say it; there is noescaping the horrific conclusion. 

In the empty space on either side are the Dying Woman’s Sister and a Police Officer. Their action spans nine years as the sister beats her head against a police force agonizingly slow to investigate the disappearance of marginalized sex workers.

The play gives a fictional victim’s story back to her as she fights to refuse the inevitable. It will not help her, but her heroic defiance gives voice to thousands of women whose lives or spirits have been lost to violence.

Pig Girl received its world premiere in November 2013 in a hugely controversial production at Theatre Network in edmonton, Alberta. It recently won Canada's prestigious Carol Bolt Award, sponsored by Playwrights Canada Press, the Professional Association of Canadian Theatres, and Playwrights Guild of Canada, for the best new by a Playwrights Guild of Canada member that has premiered in the past year.

Playwright Colleen Murphy is the former Canadian Playwright in Residence at the Finborough Theatre where her previous productions have included The December Man (L’homme de decembre),The Goodnight BirdThe PiperBeatingHeart Cadaver and Armstrong's War. Since 2010, Colleen has been guest playwright at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton, Canada and was Playwright-in-Residence at The Factory Theatre in Toronto in 2011/2012. Currently, as the LeePlaywright-in-Residence at the University of Alberta, Canada, she is working on three new plays, as well as libretti for new operas with composers Aaron Gervais and Andrew Staniland. Murphy’s play, The December Man (L’homme de décembre), won the 2007 Governor General’s Literary Award for Drama. Her large opera, The Enslavemant and Liberation of Oksana G, composed by Aaron Gervais, will be produced by Tapestry New Opera in Toronto in 2015. Murphy is also an award winning filmmaker.

Director Helen Donnelly is a former Resident Assistant Director at the Finborough Theatre where she assisted on Almost Near, John Ferguson, Hostage Song and The Immortal Hour. Trained at Royal Holloway University of London with a MA in Theatre Directing. Direction includes includes Scumbags (Richmix), Corrections (Intermission Theatre), Far Away (Crescent Arts Centre, Belfast), About A Goth (Black Box Theatre, Belfast), Lead Astray (MAC, Belfast), Sitting Up For Michael (Northern Irish Tour) and Forgotten Footfalls (Ulster Hall Group Space, Belfast). Assistant Direction includesassisting Lynne Parker on Macbeth (Lyric Theatre, Belfast), Oliver Mears on Hansel and Gretel (Gaiety Theatre, Dublin) and Jamie Harper on The Return of Colmcille (Walk The Plank) for Derry/Londonderry City of Culture.                                                                         

Sundays and Mondays, 11, 12, 18, 19, 25, 26 January, 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16 February 2015

Finborough Theatre, 118 Finborough Road, London SW10 9ED

Box Office 0844 847 1652  

Book online at

Performance Length: Approximately 90 minutes with no interval.

Dec 3rd


By Kirstie Niland

Take Your Family to the Ball This Christmas

at The Dukes, Lancaster

This festive season, The Dukes presents a brand new take on the classic fairytale, Cinderella.

Performed in The Round at the Lancaster theatre, this new version of Cinderella has been adapted by awardwinning writer, Ian Kershaw.


The father of two has written a modern version of Cinderella of which he hopes his daughters will be proud.

Set on a Northern farm, The Dukes Christmas show tells the story of gutsy teenager, Ella, whose family have hit hard times and whose sisters – recently relocated from Essex – are making her life a misery.

As Ella begins to dream of a better world, news hits of a party at the palace – is this the ticket to her future?

With live music and songs plus fantastic puppets, Cinderella promises a theatrical treat for all the family. It’s the perfect show for all party-goers aged 5 plus.

Cinderella is the third Dukes Christmas production in The Round to be directed by Joe Sumsion.

He said: “In recent years The Dukes has developed a reputation for fantastic seasonal shows with a big heart, performed in The Round, where the audience are in touching distance of the action. Cinderella will continue this – it will be a funny, joyful piece of theatre with broad appeal.”

   Cinderella runs at The Dukes until January 10.

   To ring The Dukes box office on 01524 598500 or visit

Photograph by Darren Andrews

Dec 3rd

The Bishop’s Wife for Age UK Lancashire

By Kirstie Niland

The Dukes Lancaster

Celebrate Christmas with a seasonal movie at the The Dukes Journey Café.

The Bishop’s Wife (U) starring Cary Grant and David Niven was a big hit with audiences way back in 1947. It tells the story of a bishop trying to get a new cathedral built. He prays for guidance and an angel arrives, in the form of Cary Grant.

The Bishop’s Wife will be shown at The Dukes cinema in Lancaster on December 15 as part of a series of arts events presented in association with Age UK Lancashire for people with memory problems and their families.

This pioneering scheme has attracted national publicity and featured on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour recently.

Before the film begins, free tea/coffee and pastries are available in The Dukes foyer for all ticket holders which provides the chance for a social get-together.

During the screening, which is open to everyone, some changes are made to lighting and sound to ensure that a comfortable environment is created. There will be an interval during the film when the audience can join in a festive singalong.

Tickets for The Bishop’s Wife are £4 including tea/coffee and a pastry. An accompanying carer/family member goes free.

To book tickets, contact The Dukes Box Office on 01524 598500 or visit

Nov 20th

The Grand Tour Is Cast!

By Carolin Kopplin


Alastair BrookshawNick Kyle and Zoë Doano are to head the cast for the European première of Jerry Herman’s 1979 Broadway musical, The Grand Tour, directed by Thom Southerland, at the Finborough Theatre as part of the 20 Premières Season.

Produced by Danielle Tarento, The Grand Tour will run for an eight-week strictly limited season from Thursday, 1 January to Saturday 21 February.

France, 1940. Jacobowsky, a Polish Jewish intellectual, has been one step ahead of the Nazis for years. Stjerbinsky, an aristocrat, anti semitic Polish colonel is desperately trying to get to England. Jacobowsky has purchased a car he doesn’t know how to drive. The Colonel knows how to drive, but has no car. When the two meet at a Paris hotel, they agree to join forces in order to escape the approaching Nazis. Together with the Colonel’s girlfriend, Marianne, they begin their perilous journey on the road to freedom. Featuring one of Jerry Herman’s most engrossing and heartfelt scores, The Grand Tour finds beauty, light and humour in one of history’s darkest hours. 

Alastair Brookshaw (Jacobowsky) received rave reviews for his starring role as Leo Frank in Thom Southerland’s critically  acclaimed production of Parade at Southwark Playhouse. Alastair’s West End shows include Cabaret and Blood Brothers, with him understudying Eddie. He was in Craig Revel Horwood’s revival of Hot Mikado at the Watermill Theatre, and he was a vocalist in the dance musical Shoesat Sadler’s Wells. He recently premièred the one-man Oscar Wilde musical, De Profundis, winner of Leicester Square Theatre’s The New Musical Project. 

Nik Kyle (The Colonel) hails from New Zealand, where he starred as Chris in the NZ premiere of Miss Saigon. His other musicals include Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar, Anthony in Sweeney Todd, Emcee in Cabaret and Assassins

Zoë Doano (Marianne) was in the musicals Sweet Smell of Success (Arcola), High Society (UK tour) and Les Miserables (West End). 

The rest of the cast are: Michael Cotton (Parade, Victor/Victoria, The Tailor Made Man, Martin Guerre, My Fair Lady, Oliver!), Laurel Dougall, Elizabeth Graham (Alvaro’s Balcony, Candide, Salad Days, Cabaret), Natasha Karp, Vincent Pirillo (Sweeney Todd, Chichester, The Phantom of the Opera, The Woman in White, Ragtime, Fiddler on the Roof), Blair Robertson, Samuel J Weir (Dogfight, Monkee Business, Parade, Spring Awakening), Lizzie Wofford.

The creative team consists of: 

Director Thom Southerland

Choreographer Cressida Carré

Musical Director Joanna Cichonska 

Set Designer Philip Lindley

Costume Designer Sophia Simensky

Sound Designer Max Pappenheim

Producer & Casting Director Danielle Tarento

Jerry Herman (Music and Lyrics) is one of Broadway’s most prolific composers, whose best known works include Hello, Dolly!, MameLa Cage aux Folles and Mack & Mabel. He has been nominated for the Tony Award five times, and won twice, for Hello, Dolly! and  La Cage aux Folles. In 2009, Herman received the Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Theatre. 

Michael Stewart (Book) made his Broadway debut with Bye Bye Birdie in 1960. He won two Tony Awards for Best Musical and Best Book of a Musical for Hello, Dolly! and was further nominated for Mack & Mabel, Carnival!, I Love My Wife, Barnum, 42nd Street andHarrigan ‘n’ Hart. 

Mark Bramble (Book) has been nominated for the Tony Award three times: for Best Book of a Musical for Barnum and 42nd Street and Best Direction of a Musical for 42nd Street.

Thom Southerland (Director) was longlisted Best Newcomer in the 2011 Evening Standard Awards for Parade. He was named Best Director at the 2011 The Offies - Off West End Theatre Awards - for Me And Juliet at the Finborough. He directed Titanic, Victor/Victoria, Mack & Mabel and Parade (Southwark Playhouse); Daisy Pulls It Off, Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam! (Upstairs At The Gatehouse); the European première of I Sing!, Divorce Me, Darling!, Annie Get Your Gun, The Pajama Game and sold-out all-male adaptations of Gilbert and Sullivan’s HMS Pinafore and The Mikado (Union); Noël and Gertie (Cockpit); the European première of The Unsinkable Molly Brown(Landor); and the European première of State Fair (Finborough & transfer to Trafalgar Studios).

Danielle Tarento (Producer and Casting Director) was named Best Producer at the 2012 Off West End Awards and recently won Best Off West End Production at the 2014 Whatsonstage Awards and Best Musical Production at the 2014 Off West End Awards for Titanic at Southwark Playhouse. She has also produced Dogfight, Victor/Victoria, Mack & Mabel, Parade, Company and Three Sisters at Southwark Playhouse; Taboo (Brixton Clubhouse); The Pitchfork Disney (Arcola); Burlesque, Drowning on Dry Land (Jermyn Street); Noël and Gertie (Cockpit). She is co-founder of the Menier Chocolate Factory and co-produced all in-house shows 2004 - 2006, including Sunday In The Park With George, which received a West End transfer and five Olivier Awards.


Finborough Theatre 
118 Finborough Road
London SW10 9ED

Box Office: 0844 847 1652

Thursday 1st January - 21st February

Nov 14th


By Kirstie Niland

An awardwinning Lancaster theatre is seeking new independent directors to help plan the next phase of its development.

The Dukes is a producing theatre, independent cinema and creativity centre and an essential part of Lancashire and Lancaster life. 

Following six years of audience growth and increased creative output, The Dukes needs new independent directors to join its board. 

Two vacancies have arisen which need to be filled and a third position will become vacant in May 2015.

As with the majority of publicly supported arts organisations, The Dukes is managed by a voluntary, unpaid board of directors. 

The company is looking for candidates with a broad background who are willing to offer their skills to enable The Dukes to achieve its ambitious goals.  It is particularly keen to recruit people who have experience of fundraising and in capital development.

To request an application pack, contact Jacqui Wilson, theatre secretary, on 01524 598506; email or complete an information request form at the Box Office.

The closing date for receipt of completed applications is December 3, 2014.

Oct 24th


By Kirstie Niland

Simon Rigby holds the keys to success as he and right-hand man, Richard Simkin, begin to breathe life back into the Guild Hall & Charter Theatre

Simon Rigby.jpg

As a Prestonian for 25 years I am proud to say I was there at the very moment Simon Rigby got the call to sign the contract at Preston Town Hall. The one that means he now owns the Guild Hall & Charter Theatre.

This promises to be an important historic moment. For the local tycoon and entrepreneur plans to reverse its decline over the last decade and put it on the North West map as a top “cultural hub for entertainment, education and eating.”

As I sit in the brand new Leaf or Bean cafe, on the first day it opens its doors, the tables are still being painted and there’s a smell of coffee and a definite buzz in the air. It’s exciting to think of the impact Simon and his hand-picked team of experts are about to have on Preston. By investing £1m in updating the Guild Hall and putting a £250,000 fund into local arts projects Simon has not only rescued one of Preston’s cultural gems, he is about to make it a much-needed jewel in the city’s crown.

As a reporter in the 90s I regularly reviewed famous names of the day there. Highlights for me as a 20-something not long out of college were comedy acts such as Newman & Baddiel, Smith & Jones, and indie band The Wonderstuff. So it’s great to look across from the Leaf or Bean and see that Preston’s popular comedy club, the Frog & Bucket, has recently moved in, and to hear that the closure of music venue 53 Degrees will not mean the end of live bands coming to Preston.

And since Simon owns the Villa Group, the new Preston Guild Hall will also be hot on hospitality, offering corporate and wedding events, a wine bar and five eateries, alongside select retail and business units.

Even though the keys have only just been handed over, the makeover on the 1970s building has already begun. The trees masking its faded facade have been uprooted and a bright and airy new design is planned for its revival. A tapas bar will be open in time for this year’s panto, Snow White, starring Jimmy Cricket, and other shows already programmed include the best-selling West End musical Avenue Q and Waiting for Godot.

The stage is being set for the performance of Preston’s lifetime.

 “The Guild Hall is a fantastic venue in a city centre location, with the bonus of a 2,200 capacity arena and 780 seat theatre at the top” says Simon. When it was built it was the biggest arena in England but it hasn’t moved on and has gone into a downward spiral. The big acts haven’t been coming. The Guild Hall needs to be much more enterprising and appeal to all ages.

“The way to do that is to go back to how Preston was built and that was by investing in the infrastructure for people to use it. Nobody is more pleased about this handover than Preston City Council. They knew what the place needed but were governed by rules. Everything had to be zero risk as they were spending taxpayers’ money. They couldn’t risk putting on speculative events.”

Under private ownership The Guild Hall will not be under the same restrictions, and Simon seems confident about taking the risk himself. He certainly has the passion to make it happen. “I’m Preston born and bred and Preston is very special to me. It has started off as an act of philanthropy but hopefully won’t remain that,” he quips.

Simon is the CEO of Farmgen, an anaerobic-digestion power company, and owner of over 150 properties, as well as the Villa Group, which has venues at Wrea Green, PNE and what used to be the Fairfield Arms at the M55 junction at Kirkham. How does he manage to be a Jack of all trades and the master of all them too?

“I just facilitate it all,” he explains. “There are four MDs, all specialists in their own areas. I have people who know what they’re doing and understand what’s needed, people I can trust. If you’re in the hospitality business and about to launch one of the premier venues in Lancashire then my Head of Operations, Richard Simkin, is the guy to run it.”

_DSC9705 V1.jpg

Simon and right-hand man Richard Simkin at the official Mayoral handover

Despite the busy schedule and not feeling well (he jokes it’s man flu) Richard is alert and gearing up for the public handover. At 30 Richard has a formidable CV under his belt. One of his most high profile projects was the set up and launch of a 250 cover restaurant at Liverpool Football Club. The Boot Room Cafe was the first of an international franchise.

Born into his family’s hospitality business, Richard grew up as a regular at West End shows, and his wealth of personal and professional experience means he is cool, calm and collected about spearheading this latest venture. Like the Villa’s takeover of the Fairfield Arms the transformation of the Guild Hall seems to be happening overnight.

“It has to happen overnight,” he says. “You can’t worry about what colour you’re going to paint the walls, you have to knuckle down and get on with business. Everything should be done here within 6-12 months.

“We need to work around the panto as we don’t want steel girders being hoisted up when families are coming in, so there will be a couple more soft launches as things happen but they will happen quickly.”

What else can we expect on the What’s On list? “There is a massive programming consultation in progress along with other projects. We don’t have a resident company, we are just a receiving theatre at the moment but there are big plans for school programmes and community education, with partnerships already forged with Preston College and UCLAN.  We are also in discussions with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, and with the Lowry regarding shared acts. Watch this space.”

Simon is looking forward to seeing the line-up, which he knows he will enjoy. “I’ve never seen live theatre that hasn’t been fantastic.”

To date, the business deal Simon is most famous for is the sale of Spice, the utility group that was sold to private equity for £251m, earning him £21m. Under his ownership Spice moved to up to the FTSE 250 Index just weeks into its debut on the London Stock Exchange's main list. “They said ‘you’ve done the impossible’ and they still think it’s impossible,” smiled Simon.

Which makes you believe 100 per cent in a thriving future for the new Preston Guild Hall and Charter Theatre. As Richard this space!


Check out the new website and branding here.

Photographs courtesy of Sue Blackhurst, SusieQ Photography


Oct 21st

LAFFALANG Returns to Westovian Theatre for Yuletide Japes

By Cameron Lowe
The Laffalang will return to the Westovian Theatre,  South Shields,  in December due to popular demand.

The comedy show, which was first performed last December at the Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle (250 attended), has already gained a strong following with 275 people attending the Summer Laffalang in July.
The Laffalang, which comprises themed comedy sketches linked by a stand-up comedian, was performed at the Westovian Theatre in Ocean Road and it will return to the venue on Friday and Saturday, December 5 and 6, when the theme is Christmas.
Laffalang producer and director Gareth Hunter said: “The response to both shows has been fantastic. People are now talking about the Laffalang and constantly asking when the next one is.
“The sketches are written by Ed and the cast includes Paul Dunn (Dracula in Dracula: Die Laughing), whose latest success is I Left My Heart in Roker Park, and panto legend Bob Stott who dons the Widow Twanky costume for three sketches (including the Queen’s Speech). A special sketch has been written for the original Dirty Dusting trio of Helen Russell Gwen Doran and Jean Southern, who are sold off as slaves. Other sketches include the Geordie Nativity (Part 2), The Fabulous Five in an all-new spiffing adventure (huge favourites since their introduction in the Summer Laffalang) and The End of the World is Nigh. The other wonderful cast members are Viktoria  Kay (A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Durham) Dylan Mortimer (Son of Samurai) and Rosie Ramsey (I Am Christ Ramsey TV sketch show).  
Gareth added: “Every sketch is different from last year’s Xmas Laffalang. Once again it will be hilarious. The read through took a lot longer than it should have because we were howling with laughter.
“Any work groups looking for a great Christmas evening out should come along. It’ll be a cracking night.”
Tickets for the Christmas Laffalang cost £10 and are now on sale from the Tourist Information Centre in Haven Point Sports Centre (opposite the Westovian Theatre).  0191 424 7788