Russell T Davies Hope Mill Theatre

Manchester’s critically acclaimed Hope Mill Theatre is to move from private ownership to a registered charity, it has been announced.

The Ancoats theatre founded by William Whelton and Joseph Houston in 2015 will begin operating as a charitable organisation from this month.

The charity – A Factory of Creativity – will take over the operation of the venue – which will continue to be called Hope Mill Theatre, with Whelton and Houston continuing in the roles of executive director and artistic director respectively. A board of trustees, made up of individuals who have supported the venue since it opened, will help support and guide the charity as it moves forward.

Since opening its doors in a former mill on Pollard Street, Hope Mill Theatre has won acclaim for its in-house productions premiering in Manchester such as the musicals Parade, Hair, Yank!, Spring Awakening, Aspects of Love and Rags, many of which have transferred to London or on tour.

Joseph Houston and William Whelton at Hope Mill Theatre. Credit: Phil Tragen Photography

In a joint statement Whelton and Houston said: “Hope Mill Theatre was set up four years ago with a £10K start up loan and has been operating since then as an independent business, receiving no local or national funding.

“In a small amount of time we have grown rapidly and have struggled to keep up with the expectations and sheer demand of operating such a large endeavour. It has become increasingly hard to support the level of work that we produce in-house as well as supporting a thriving arts community locally.

“Hope Mill Theatre is now in a very crucial stage of its journey with many exciting opportunities, as well as an ever-evolving and developing local landscape. We, along with our small team, recognise the importance of having the venue expand, which will allow us to focus more on nurturing new work and supporting artists.

“It is our ambition to secure the venue’s home for many years to come and well as engaging more with our community and making our work accessible to varied audiences. We believe moving forward as a charity will allow us to achieve these ambitions.”

Mame at Hope Mill Theatre

The theatre will continue to build on its acclaimed partnership with Katy Lipson of Aria Entertainment, with Hope Mill Theatre and Aria continuing to work together in the future, both at Hope Mill Theatre and around the UK, with their most ambitious show to date – Mame starring Tracie Bennett – winning rave reviews.

It has been confirmed that award-winning writer Russell T Davies and stage and screen actress Denise Welch will join Olivier Award-winning actress Tracie Bennett as patrons of the theatre for its next chapter.

Tracie Bennett (Mame) with the cast of Mame

Queer as Folk writer Davies said: “I’m thrilled and honoured to become a patron of Hope Mill Theatre. It’s an amazing place, and I’ve followed Joe and Will’s journey right from the start. Their productions are wonderful, and I love their support for new writers and talent. I think the future’s full of Hope!”

In the first few months as a charity, applications to fund the purchase and upgrade of lighting and sound equipment will be made. A ‘fund a chair’ scheme will be launched to help replace the venue’s current seating – to help make watching theatre at Hope Mill a more comfortable and accessible experience.  There are also plans to launch a Friends of Hope Mill Theatre scheme.

Whelton and Houston concluded: “It’s now time to allow Hope Mill Theatre to grow and flourish as it enters the next phase of its very exciting future, regionally and nationally.”

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