Just twelve short months ago, The Roses in Tewkesbury was a building site encased in scaffolding as dozens of people worked around the clock to get the theatre’s £1m redevelopment project finished in time for the grand reopening on Thursday 24 September 2015. With Paul Jones and The Manfreds booked to play the first gig, and a sell out audience eagerly anticipating being the first to see inside the new building, much was at stake.
Happily, all went to plan and The Roses reopened on time to much fanfare. A whole year on, final small adjustments are still being made, but the newly refurbished building, with all of its new facilities, has firmly established itself as one of the most vital organisations in Tewkesbury.
Since reopening, audiences have been wowed by the difference. Last year’s pantomime, Cinderella, broke Box Office records. This year’s pantomime, Robin Hood & the Babes in the Wood, which runs from Saturday 3 December, is a staggering 22% ahead of Cinderella’s sales at this point last year. The numbers speak for themselves – people are coming back, they are coming more often, and they are telling their friends to do the same.
Behind the scenes the project has been equally transformative. Businesses are queuing up to align themselves with The Roses and support its charity function. For businesses that take their corporate social responsibility seriously, the charity side of The Roses delivers a programme of support within the community, working with those in need, including young people with a mental illness, victims of domestic abuse and those facing isolation. The Roses outreach is such that it delivers over 10,000 participatory sessions a year across Gloucestershire and the wider area.
The Roses also runs a successful performing arts programme, which includes a weekly youth theatre plus many one off classes and workshops across a range of artforms. The Youth Theatre in particular has been so successful that it has just toured its own production, Anonymous, to Edinburgh Festival Fringe as well as taking part in the National Theatre’s Connections Festival for the second year running last March. Indeed, many alumni of The Roses’ Youth Theatre have gone on to further professional study at some of the most prestigious drama and dance schools in the country, including the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts.
Back inside the building, thoughts are turning to the next phase of redevelopment, in which the theatre team hope to build a secondary performance studio in the form of an extension, as well as refurbish the backstage area and make it fully accessible for disabled performers. It is hoped that the new studio will provide a space not only to offer a wider artistic programme of events and a second film screen, but also to enable artists to research and develop their work. The Roses recently co-produced the circus dance piece Ceirw – A Savage Hart with Welsh theatre company Citrus Arts, and hopes to engage in many similar collaborations in the future.
The success of the 2015 refurbishment has paved the way for even greater future plans, and all at the Sun Street venue are optimistic of the brightest of futures for The Roses.