Fond memories preserved at Portsmouth theatre

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IT’S made its mark on our city – and now the New Theatre Royal is urging you to do the same.

Staff at the historic Guildhall Walk venue yesterday launched a project to capture the city’s memories of the theatre before its extensive renovation later this month.

(left to right) Cllr. Gerald Vernon-Jackson Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Caroline Sharman Director of The New Theatre Royal with Josh Brown Chairman of The Trustees of The New Theatre Royal ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (13278-7668)

(left to right) Cllr. Gerald Vernon-Jackson Leader of Portsmouth City Council, Caroline Sharman Director of The New Theatre Royal with Josh Brown Chairman of The Trustees of The New Theatre Royal ''Picture: Malcolm Wells (13278-7668)

Entitled Make Your Mark, theatre staff are inviting people to sign or draw on a large board in its foyer.

The board will then be displayed in the new theatre once it opens in 2014.

Portsmouth City Council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson was the first person to make his mark on the board.

Volunteer Ray Hunt has been a part of the theatre for the past 20 years. The 56-year-old also signed the board.

He said: ‘One of my memories was meeting the ghost in the upper tier.

‘It wasn’t scary. I had been working up there all evening and was clearing up. I looked over and saw a lady in a dress.

‘I walked over and before I could say “leave the auditorium” she disappeared.

‘The board is a great way of preserving these memories. Let’s hope it doesn’t end up in a skip in 200 years’ time.’

Steve Pitt, who is part of the theatre’s fundraising committee, said he had fond memories of working with John Offord, who started the campaign to save the theatre 40 years ago.

He said: ‘I think it’s fantastic – it gives everyone involved with the theatre, and those who have associations with it, the chance to come in and be involved by making their mark to provide that legacy going forward.’

Theatre director Caroline Sharman said he was impressed by the number of people turning up to sign the board on its launch.

She said: ‘There are a range of different people from different ages that can come and make their mark.

‘We want people with any connection to please come, sign the visitor book and if they’d like to tell a story we’d love that too. The volunteers have kept us going for 40 years, the Arts Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as the community and our volunteers have been with us all the way through.’

Anne Burrill, a theatre trustee, said: ‘I have been a trustee for around seven or eight years now and I’m fascinated by what happens behind the scenes to create what’s on stage.’

The Make Your Mark board will be available for people to sign from 10am to 2pm from Monday to Saturday.

For more information, contact the theatre on (023) 9264 9000.

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