Nellie will be able to take her seat in revamped New Theatre Royal

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WHEN Nellie Harvey first started going to the New Theatre Royal some eight decades ago, she couldn’t afford a shilling for the best seats.

But now, after being nominated by her daughter Gill Harvey-Whitten in the Take A Seat competition run by the theatre in conjunction with The News, a seat in the city centre venue will have her name permanently attached to it.

New Theatre Royal chief executive Caroline Sharman with Take A Seat winner Nellie Harvey, 95

New Theatre Royal chief executive Caroline Sharman with Take A Seat winner Nellie Harvey, 95

The Take A Seat campaign is giving residents, businesses, organisations and theatre fans the opportunity to sponsor a seat in the auditorium for £215.

Seats will display each sponsor’s name on a plaque for the life of the seat.

The theatre is set to re-open in October following an extensive £4.5m rebuild and refurbishment scheme that has seen it closed to the public for the past four years.

Nellie, 95, from Cosham, recalled: ‘I used to live in Hampton Street, just a few minutes’ walk away. I would finish work and then run to catch the shows.

I used to live in Hampton Street, just a few minutes walk away. I would finish work and then run to catch the shows

Nellie Harvey

‘We used to go down an alley at the side of the theatre so we could go in the cheap seats where it cost us sixpence.

‘You could pay a shilling and go to the nice part, but we never had that.’

The great-grandmother started working in a corner shop at 14, which she eventually ran herself.

‘We were ever so lucky living where we did, we had everything on our doorstep,’ she added.

In her winning nomination, Gill said of her mum: ‘She is still a very proud Portsmouth person. She watched Portsmouth burn in the wartime Blitz and took people in when they were made homeless by the bombings

‘Her own mother sang in the Guildhall and Theatre Royal and when she was young her and dad would attend shows there, as well as at the Hippodrome opposite, which was destroyed in the Second World War.

‘She never asks for anything but is always there to help others and is still going strong,’

Of course, Nellie is not the only person with fond memories of the theatre.

It is interested in hearing from anyone else with recollections they would like to share.

Please contact the box office on (023) 9264 9000 and you can book yourself in for a preview of the theatre and the chance to chat with Judith Smyth, chairwoman of the board of the NTR.