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New Learning Centre at Georgian Theatre Royal wins Heritage Lottery Fund Support
Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012
The Georgian Theatre Royal, Richmond (GTR) has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the development of a Learning Centre. 

The Learning Centre will be established in memory of the theatre’s former Associate Director Paul Iles who died last year and who bequeathed over £200,000 and his collection of theatrical ephemera to the theatre for this purpose.

The project aims to provide a unique opportunity for people of all ages to increase their knowledge, awareness and appreciation of theatre in the Georgian period and its social, geographical and historical context. Development funding of £121,600 has been awarded to help the GTR progress plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.

At the core of the initiative is the 18th century auditorium, which is the oldest theatre in its original form in the UK. The auditorium provides unique opportunities for studying and learning about 18th century theatre at a variety of levels, from academic study to tourist visitors. The replica machinery in the original machine room and the oldest scenery in the UK further enhance the learning experience.

The project will also include the creation of a flexible space behind the stage that can be used for exhibitions, receptions and the interpretation of the theatre as well as a new Samuel Butler Room above the existing studio. This room will focus on the human dimension of the theatre and will tell the story of the theatre’s founder, the actor/manager Samuel Butler who created the GTR in 1788. A new lift will be installed to provide access.

Also included in the Learning Centre will be the development of the Youth Theatre and the GTR’s outreach work with young people and the provision of a new archive store. Finally the historic Friar’s Wynd, an ancient public thoroughfare that leads from the GTR to Richmond’s large cobbled Market Place will be upgraded, with new and improved interpretation, lighting, and signage.

GTR Trust Chairman, Malcolm Bryant, said: "This project has the support of our Town, District and County Councils and has the potential to transform the Georgian Theatre Royal as a major heritage and educational resource. It will also make a significant contribution to the wonderful historic town of Richmond. The trustees, staff and many volunteers on whom the theatre depends are greatly appreciative of the HLF award and look forward to developing our plans and submitting an application for a full grant in due course."
Explaining the importance of the HLF support, Fiona Spiers, Head of the heritage Lottery Fund in Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “The Georgian Theatre in Richmond is much loved.  We look forward to seeing the plans for the enhanced learning and archives activities develop.”

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