Chelms­ford’s City The­atres

Un­der new man­age­ment with an ex­cit­ing fu­ture

Essex Life - - INSIDE -

Ian Knowles has a strong arts and me­dia back­ground and he’s de­lighted to have been ap­pointed as the new theatre man­ager for Chelms­ford Civic Theatre. It’s a role he is rel­ish­ing, with ex­cit­ing plans for the fu­ture.

Ian ex­plains: ‘I’ve spent the last 10 years work­ing for var­i­ous arts and me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions in and around Lon­don. I was the orig­i­nal gen­eral man­ager in­volved in the foun­da­tion of the New Dio­rama Theatre in Re­gents Place. Dur­ing the last five and a half years I was gen­eral man­ager for the Bu­reau of Silly Ideas, an Arts Coun­cil Eng­land funded Com­bined Arts or­gan­i­sa­tion.

I’ve also been in­volved in the de­vel­op­ment and ex­hi­bi­tion as­pects of Only Fools and Horses, man­ag­ing and or­gan­is­ing events at the Oval, in Southend and Mar­gate. I’ve also un­der­taken re­search and film­ing on doc­u­men­taries for Net­work DVD, BBC and SKY, cov­er­ing di­verse sub­jects such as Char­lie Chap­lin, The Saint and Dr Who. Given my CV in­cludes Only Fools and Silly Ideas, I thought it about time I come and work for a sen­si­ble or­gan­i­sa­tion such as Chelms­ford City Coun­cil!’

It's quite a chal­lenge to be man­ag­ing a Civic Theatre and Pic­ture House, so what is Ian’s vi­sion for the fu­ture?

‘I think Chelms­ford’s the­atres are uniquely placed. It’s great that Chelms­ford City Coun­cil still man­ages its own theatre. Lo­cal coun­cil­lors de­cided, along­side its other ser­vices, they didn’t want a third party con­trac­tor man­ag­ing their cul­tural of­fer in the city. Where so many other lo­cal the­atres are now un­der pri­vate op­er­a­tion, Chelms­ford City Coun­cil still has con­trol.

‘The coun­cil is very am­bi­tious re­gard­ing its cul­tural of­fer and is de­ter­mined the city be­comes a place peo­ple both wish to visit and as­pire to live in. Over the com­ing months we have many fresh plans, which in­clude open­ing the build­ing to the pub­lic dur­ing the day with ac­tiv­i­ties tak­ing place in and around the theatre. This in­cludes com­pli­men­tary events sup­port­ing per­for­mances in the theatre which are open to every­one to at­tend. There is a sea­son of free per­for­mances on at our Cram­phorn Theatre fea­tur­ing some of the best acts from the Fringe as well as free lunchtime mu­sic con­certs.’

Ian is nat­u­rally pas­sion­ate about the arts, but where does his own per­sonal in­ter­est in the theatre lie? ‘I have a very wide va­ri­ety of in­ter­ests in theatre. I’m es­pe­cially in­ter­ested in per­for­mances that both en­ter­tain and those which pro­vide a shared emo­tional ex­pe­ri­ence. In this dig­i­tal age there re­ally is noth­ing like the ex­pe­ri­ence of live per­for­mance, whether it’s live mu­sic, drama or a cinema per­for­mance with a fam­ily or a group of friends. I am hop­ing over the com­ing months we can of­fer some­thing for every­one.’

The Civic Theatre is well­known for its 1960s style ar­chi­tec­ture and this is some­thing that has proved to be an in­spi­ra­tion for Ian.

‘Chelms­ford Civic Theatre first opened its doors to the pub­lic in Septem­ber 1962’ con­tin­ues Ian. ‘I re­alised its fix­tures and fit­tings are still in place and have been main­tained in ex­cel­lent con­di­tion over the years. With so much of Bri­tish cul­ture from the 1960s cur­rently be­ing so on-trend world­wide, it seemed silly not to em­brace the spirit here at the theatre. We re­vamped the bar, if that’s the right phrase, and lit­er­ally have gone back in time to 1962. Some of the dé­cor now re­flects what was

‘I think Chelms­ford’s the­atres are uniquely placed. It’s great that Chelms­ford City Coun­cil still man­ages its own theatre’

orig­i­nally in place. We have a fan­tas­tic new drinks menu with some ex­cel­lent retro bev­er­ages, in­clud­ing every­one’s favourite – a BabyCham. Some of our new pro­gramme even sup­ports the 1960s theme.’

And it cer­tainly is an in­no­va­tive and ex­cit­ing pro­gramme for the end of 2018 and be­gin­ning of 2019.

‘The new sea­son is a real mixed bag! If you’ve not been to the Civic Theatre for some time, take a look at some of the new pro­gram­ming we’ve in­tro­duced, es­pe­cially around pop­u­lar and cult themes. I’m re­ally lucky in many ways as I’ve been given the free­dom to try new things to en­hance the theatre-go­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for our ex­ist­ing pa­trons and to at­tract new au­di­ences.

On De­cem­ber 6 we have per­for­mances by Jef­fery Hol­land from TV’s Hi-De-Hi and And this is My Friend Mr Lau­rel in which Jef­fery as­ton­ishes every­one by trans­form­ing in to Stan Lau­rel. The play cov­ers the last time Stan met with Oliver Hardy. To com­ple­ment this, in our Pic­ture House cinema on Novem­ber 15 there is an evening of Lau­rel and Hardy shorts with an in­tro­duc­tion from Roger Robin­son, the well-known au­thor and film his­to­rian. To con­tinue the 1960s theme, in our cinema we’re screen­ing clas­sic Thun­der­birds episodes, Dr Who and the Daleks (1965) and the clas­sic tele­vi­sion se­ries The Pris­oner.

‘There is a great Hal­loween week from Univer­sals’ Franken­stein (1931) to Carry on Scream­ing (1966), while we have

‘I’m re­ally lucky in many ways as I’ve been given the free­dom to try new things to en­hance the theatre-go­ing ex­pe­ri­ence’

won­der­ful new plays in­clud­ing Women on Fire about the Ed­war­dian suf­frage move­ment. Char­lotte Keat­ley’s My Mother Said I Never Should in our Civic Theatre, fo­cus­ing on the lives of four women dur­ing the so­cial changes of the 20th cen­tury. We also have talks with TV his­to­rian Lucy Wors­ley about Queen Vic­to­ria and, as an Es­sex theatre ex­clu­sive, we have an ap­pear­ance from Bing Crosby’s Grand­son Phil, per­form­ing songs from Sammy Davies Jnr, Frank Si­na­tra and of course Bing him­self. We’re ex­tend­ing this of­fer with free mu­sic per­for­mances in the bar af­ter the main show too.

‘These are ex­cit­ing changes, but I am re­ally in­ter­ested to hear from au­di­ence mem­bers and find out what they feel about the new sea­son and what else they would like to see in the the­atres and cinema in the fu­ture. We are cre­at­ing a cul­tural Chelms­ford for the peo­ple of Chelms­ford, af­ter all.’

Find out more

You can get in touch with Ian and share your thoughts about the cul­tural scene in Chelms­ford via www.chelms­ the­atres where you can also sign up to re­ceive the new pro­gramme brochure

Chelms­ford’s Civic Theatre

My Mother Said I Never Should comes to the Civic Theatre this month

Chris Do­browol­ski ap­pears on Septem­ber 20

Ian takes a cen­tral role in a Char­lie Chap­lin re­search project

LEFT:Ian with Roger Moore film­ing a doc­u­men­tary about The Saint at El­stree Stu­dios

ABOVE:Dads Army Ra­dio Hour comes to the Civic Theatre this au­tumn

BE­LOW:Ian with Stephanie Pow­ers

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