William Whelton (centre) with Katy Lipson (producer) and Joseph Houston

A Manchester-based producer has been awarded a prestigious national award known for catapulting the careers of theatre producers nationwide.

William Whelton, co-founder of Hope Mill Theatre in Ancoats, is one of six young producers from around the UK to be awarded the Stage One Bursary, which offers financial support together with mentorship by acclaimed theatre producers.

Will and his partner Joseph Houston took a gamble last year when they spotted the empty storage space at the former mill on Gumtree. Within months, the couple transformed it into a unique and intimate fringe venue, complete with 120 seat theatre, rehearsal space and cafe.

The couple’s gamble is already paying off.  Hope Mill has been shortlisted for Fringe Theatre of the Year 2017 by prestigious industry publication The Stage and named a 2017 must-see place to visit by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Manchester theatre producer wins prestigious national stage award I Love Manchester

In October last year, Joe and Will won the Hospital Club 100 award for contribution to theatre and performance and just a few weeks ago, it won a special achievement award at the Manchester Theatre Awards, where they also won ‘Best Fringe production’ for The Trial.

“We’re passionate about Manchester and want to put it on the map in therms of musical theatre” says Will, originally from Macclesfield.

“The musical theatre scene in Manchester is evolving so fast, we’re really proud to be a part of that and want to keep-up the momentum.

Manchester theatre producer wins prestigious national stage award I Love Manchester

“We’re a small fringe theatre but be have big ambitions. We want to keep producing West End quality shows that have a commercial value and a future outside of Manchester.”

“Our vision when we opened Hope Mill was to give north west audiences the chance to see new musical theatre in Manchester before it played anywhere else,” says Joe. “And that’s what we’ve achieved with HAIR and what we hope we can do with many more productions.”

To find out more about Hope Mill Theatre and its latest productions visit www.hopemilltheatre.co.uk

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