The ownership of York’s gem of a community theatre, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre, has passed from Nestle UK & Ireland to York St John University. The name and management of the theatre will remain unchanged. The Joseph Rowntree Theatre Ltd will continue to manage and run the theatre under the terms of its lease, providing essential performance facilities to many of the city’s various arts groups.
The Joseph Rowntree Theatre is a beautiful art deco style theatre which celebrated its 75th anniversary in 2010. It was built by the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust (now Joseph Rowntree Foundation) as a venue to provide great quality, reasonably-priced entertainment for the people of York. Today, now run by the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Ltd, a registered charity, it is the venue of choice of more than 30 local performing groups, and is staffed by more than 150 passionate volunteer supporters, both front of house and backstage. The huge range of shows produced by its hirers stretches from musical theatre to ballet, opera to pantomime, and brass bands to traditional drama. Over the past decade, more than £280,000 has been invested in the upgrading and upkeep of its facilities, with full auditorium refurbishment and the installation of fully up to date sound and lighting systems. This money was raised by the Joseph Rowntree Theatre Ltd from regular fundraising, and from its many loyal, local supporters.
The theatre fits well into the University’s portfolio, given York St John’s long tradition of involvement within the performing arts sector. There is a 1942 covenant on the theatre, placing responsibility on the owners and users to maintain its use as a theatre, and so the long term future of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre as a performance venue remains guaranteed. The same covenant decreed that the Joseph Rowntree Foundation would be given the first option to buy the theatre if it were to be sold. The Foundation declined to take up this option, resulting in York St John taking the opportunity to purchase the theatre.
Dan Shrimpton, Managing Director of the Joseph Rowntree Theatre said: “The Joseph Rowntree Theatre is a fantastic venue which has been vastly improved in the last eleven years; this change in ownership secures the future of the venue for all the community arts groups in the city”.
The theatre’s board gratefully acknowledges Nestle’s great support for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre over the past eleven years, during which time it has been run as an independent charitable trust. Nestle’s invaluable assistance has helped to preserve and develop this precious part of the Rowntree legacy, which will continue to be run for the benefit of the people of York.
It is hoped the involvement of York St John University will provide an exciting opportunity for the Joseph Rowntree Theatre for years to come.