Report of General Monthly Meeting - Tuesday 10th May 2022


  The Theatre Royal - by Deryck Newland


Is this a u3a I see before me?

As William Shakespeare well knew, make ‘em laugh and you’ll fill the theatre. At our May meeting, Deryck Newland explained to us how important it was to have live theatre in Winchester.

theatre Royal

Deryck is Chief Executive of Play to the Crowd, the charity that runs the Theatre Royal in Winchester. He took the position five years ago and began by making sure that the theatre’s message to delight and unite was clear and consistent. As well as the Theatre Royal, he is in charge of Playmakers, the organisation that runs creative theatre workshops for children aged from 5 to 25 together with The Hat Fair, the once-a-year outdoor festival around the city.


The theatre opened in 1914 as a cinema and variety show in the old Market Hotel that was adjacent to the cattle market in Jewry Street. Changing tastes and audiences led to it being used solely as a cinema after 1924. This then closed in 1974 and when plans were announced to demolish the building, a local campaign managed to buy the site for a community theatre. Live performances commenced in 1978 and following two major refurbishments over the years, the Theatre Royal is now a fully equipped intimate performance space suitable for amateur and professional theatre companies alike.


Deryck emphasised the importance of engaging the youth of today as they are the performers and audience of tomorrow. Getting children from troubled backgrounds to discover the joys of live rehearsal and performance can be a turning point for them and can save more serious interventions later in life. He uses examples of these situations when applying for the ever-necessary funding to keep the charity in good financial health.


Audience members were keen to show support for Deryck, emphasising the splendid facility he offers as a performance space for local community groups.


Vernon Tottle