PATRONS have helped to breathe new life into one of Portsmouth’s beloved theatres by raising more than £17,500 for it.
Businesses, politicians, theatre-goers and even the military have backed the New Theatre Royal’s ‘Take a Seat’ campaign.
Schemes like this are helping to breathe life into this historic buildingLady Emma Barnard
The effort has seen scores of people splashing out cash to sponsor their own seat inside the Guildhall Walk venue.
The aim of the drive is to try and raise £25,000 for the newly-renovated site.
More importantly, theatre bosses hope the campaign will rally the community into taking more ownership of the playhouse, which is marking its 160th anniversary.
Last night saw the grand unveiling of the sponsors’ seats.
Theatre-lover Lady Emma Barnard bought four of the seats and said she was thrilled to be supporting the city institution.
‘I think theatre is the life blood of the community,’ she said.
‘Schemes like this are helping to breathe life into this historic building.
‘By being part of this, it feels like we are contributing to keeping theatre alive.’
She added: ‘I think it’s wonderful that this gem of the south of England has been brought back.’
The theatre has 115 seats up for grabs – although leaders hope to one day be able to get a sponsor for all its 700 seats.
Former Portsmouth South MP Mike Hancock was one of the first to buy into the scheme, sponsoring a seat for himself and his wife Jacqui more than a year ago.
Last night, he purchased another two chairs for his granddaughters.
‘Our granddaughters aspire to be on the stage one day so we thought it would be nice to get them a seat each,’ Mr Hancock explained.
He added: ‘For a city the size of Portsmouth to have two wonderful theatres is just marvellous.’
The Royal Marines School of Music has also backed the scheme.
Captain Andy Gregory, assistant director of music with the group said: ‘Theatres are at the very heart of the community.
‘We’ve performed here many times so it’s fantastic to be able to show our support.’
Caroline Sharman, artistic director and chief executive at the New Theatre Royal, was delighted by all the support.
She added was keen for the venue to play a role in boosting the city’s strong, cultural heritage.
She said: ‘We’re a theatre for the community and want to help people of all walks of life enjoy theatre.’
For further details on how to sponsor a seat at the theatre, email firstname.lastname@example.org