Stockton Globe offers free tours!

The huge public interest around Stockton Globe’s recent highly successful reopening has encouraged them to add some more free venue tours to their schedule, which are available to book now. Booking is compulsory for these tours.

The venue says “We’ve loved being able to welcome so many of you through our doors already and due to popular demand we’ll be running some additional tours of the Globe this month! Tours will be taking place this Monday 18th October and again in half term on 26th & 27th October.”

Tickets are free and available to book now at:

Enjoy a virtual visit from your sofa during Heritage Open Days 2020

Across the UK from 11-20 September, many historic and intriguing buildings are throwing their doors open to the public for unusual levels of access to explore what’s inside.

This year a large number of events have gone online, choosing to provide tours and access virtually, with the benefit that large numbers can participate and enjoy the sessions. As usual a number of theatres are participating, all online except where indicated, including

The Cygnet Theatre, Exeter, Devon

The Roman Theatre, Colchester, Essex

Cheltenham Playhouse, Gloucestershire

The Garrick Theatre in Stockport, Manchester

The Mayflower Theatre in Southampton (not online)

The Theatre Royal Winchester, Hampshire

The Playhouse, Preston, Lancashire

The Y Theatre, Leicester, Leicestershire (not online)

The Little Theatre, Southport, Merseyside

St George’s Theatre, Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Palace Theatre, Newark, Nottinghamshire

The Blakehay Theatre, Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

Theatre Royal Wakefield, West Yorkshire

You can find out more details about how to take a tour from the comfort of your own sofa by visiting the Heritage Open Days wesbite here

The unique Wilton’s Music Hall is open for tours

Wilton’s Music Hall is an unique survivor in London’s theatrical history.

Amazingly just a few streets away from Tower Hill Underground Station, and the Tower of London itself, hidden in a little dimly lit back street called Grace’s Alley, is an often-overlooked jewel of London ‘s theatrical history – Wilton’s Music Hall.

Dating back as far as 1743, it was first a pub and then improved and enlarged over the years. John Wilton bought the venue in 1850 and set about building his grand music hall which opened in 1859.

Sadly short-lived, the building changed owners in the 1870s and fell victim to a devastating fire in 1877. An eight-year reconstruction culminated in the building being acquired by the Methodist Church who created a Mission in the building, as such becoming an important community asset for the impoverished local communities. The Methodists left the building in the 1950s. As the whole area was scheduled for demolition in a widespread slum clearance, little hope was held out for its survival. However, a campaign was started to save the building with support from celebrities such as Sir John Betjeman, Peter Sellers and Spike Milligan. After much campaigning, Wilton’s was given the protection of Grade II* listed building status in April 1971 and was bought by the Greater London Council who preserved it until 1999.

Wilton’s reopened in 1997 as a theatrical venue, however it was practically derelict and in need of much work to bring it back from the brink. In June 2007 the World Monuments Fund added the building to its list of the world’s “100 most endangered sites”. Many grants, fundraisers and appeals later, the venue was preserved in what is now generally accepted as a state of arrested decay, with no artificial recreations of previous appearances.

As such, a visit to Wilton’s like walking into a time capsule. The attractive long and high hall with its candy-twist columns supporting a slender gallery is a joy to behold. And performances there are greatly enhanced with the ambiance of almost 150 years of history.

If you haven’t visited, I strongly suggest you do so. There are so many interesting corners, nooks and crannies to explore. The extensive programme of activities and performances is very varied and the building, now owned by a Trust, is lovingly cared for.

Anyone who wants to explore this unique survivor from top to bottom is heartily recommended to book a tour which you can do through the venue’s website.

There are two different tours- the first, a full historic tour of the building which you can book here

There is also a film tour which concentrates on the venue as it has often been used in film and TV since the seventies. You can book the film tour here

London is blessed with unrivalled architectural history, and when you discover this little jewel tucked away in an unprepossessing little side street, you’ll be hungry to share it with your friends too.

90th anniversary brings rare chance to tour London’s Apollo Victoria

The stunning Apollo Victoria Theatre is 90 this year, and celebrations include a rare chance to take a tour of the theatre’s foyers and auditorium. The next is on Saturday 8th February at 11.00am.

Opened as the New Victoria Theatre on 15th October 1930 , it was designed for Provincial Cinematograph Theatres(PCT) by William Edward Trent and Ernest Wamsley Lewis, seating over 2,500, this was a huge new entrant into London’s entertainment world .

The exteriors (two almost identical facades) are strongly Germanic and assume great authority on the street. The foyers and auditorium have nautical themes, with the fabulous auditorium resembling an undersea palace, filled with glass stalactites and a lavish attention to design detail. Designed to play the then-popular cine-variety (films plus short stage shows which bracketed the films), it had adequate stage and dressing room facilities for these purposes. When cinemas tailed off in popularity it was the stage facilities which saved the venue from demolition.

The cinematic legacy is a high capacity with excellent sightlines. In an extensive 2002 restoration, the auditorium was returned to its original glory with the original 3,500 auditorium lights being replaced by 88,000 LEDs, making it (as I believe) the first auditorium to be lit in this way.

The vast crowds which ebb and flow through the building at showtimes sometimes make it had to see details, so these limited-number tours are a great way to see the building without having to elbow your way through the masses.

Information from the theatre owner ATG states that “the tour lasts approximately 90 minutes. Tea, coffee and soft drinks will be offered. This tour will use routes that include steps.” Tickets are priced at £15 and can be obtained via the ATG website here.

Maybe I’ll see you there?

Read more about the theatre’s history at the Theatre trust website here

London Open House, 21/22 September – bookings now open!

The largest festival of architecture and building design in the world, London Open House 2019 is coming in September, and the full programme has now gone live on their website.

Every September since 1992, London Open House has enabled public access to 800+ buildings, many of which are inaccessible at any other time of the year, with associated walks, talks and tours over one very busy weekend, now attracting over a quarter of a million people annually.

Run by a small team supported by volunteers, the astonishing breadth of London’s building design is celebrated by gaining rare access to private and restricted buildings.

Happily, entertainment buildings such as theatres and cinemas are also enthusiastically taking part, and it is this category which I want to tell you about.

22 theatres and 5 cinemas are listed in this year’s offerings, ranging from the grandeur of Sir Cameron Mackintosh’s freshly-refurbished Victoria Palace Theatre to the Victorian charms of Hoxton Hall and Wilton’s Music Hall, to more modern offerings such as the National Theatre. All will be open for exploration via tours and/or talks on-site. Tucked away in the “entertainment” category is the first cinema to be Grade-I listed, the incredible Tooting Granada (now rather cheesily-titled Buzz Bingo, but inside still an awe-inspiring and richly-detailed movie palace)

Please note that some sites require advance booking while others do not. Do check with the Open House website on each venue’s individual listing page for full details. Also, a lot of venues will open on just one day of the weekend, not both, so do please check before you travel.

At the website you can check buildings by category and also by location to help you find Open House buildings near to you. Don’t miss this once-a-year opportunity!

Find out more at the website which you can find here