Category Archives: Welcome


Heritage Focus: The Theatre Royal at 40

The Theatre Royal at 40 – An Undergraduate explores the historic impact of a community.

We met Sam Jenkins at the celebration of 40 years since the Theatre Royal was saved. Threatened with demolition in the 1970s an action group was formed comprising of six dedicated Winchester residents who wanted to save the building for use as a permanent theatre which Winchester lacked at that time. A charitable trust was formed and subsequently purchased the building in 1977. Theatre Royal Winchester was then opened the following year on 1 November 1978 by the esteemed actor/playwright Robert Morley. Sam has been researching the theatre as part of his studies at the University of Winchester and has kindly agreed to share his experiences and findings with us.

I am Sam Jenkins, a second year history student at the University of Winchester. As part of my degree I am currently undertaking a module called ‘Exploring Past Localities’, where I am exploring a local tenement in the Winchester area, tracing the tenement’s origins as far back as possible, right up to its use in the present day. This will culminate in a presentation of my findings in December. As a keen fan of cinema and theatre-going, I quickly chose the Theatre Royal as my tenement to explore. To fully equip me for the task, I received training to use resources from the Hampshire Record Office, where much historic documentation can be found on the Theatre Royal and the tenement of land it occupies.

One of the key aspects of this module is to consider the importance of ‘history-from-below’, an idea that has emerged in historiographical thought since the 1960s. This is the concept that historical writing should consider the role of ordinary individuals, and the impact of the civic community, rather than just focusing on how history was shaped by those in power at the very top of society. The sense of a rooted community spirit was very evident when I visited the Theatre for its 40th Anniversary celebrations on the 1st November.

Richard Steel, Phil Yates, Lady Jennie Bland, Janet Richardson, David Harding and Richard Chisnell.

It gave me a wonderful opportunity to meet first-hand some of the key people involved with saving the Theatre from being demolished in the 1970s. The guests I met included surviving members of the original ‘gang’ who came together to fight against the building’s planned demolition order, some of the volunteers who helped operate the Theatre when it first re-opened, as well as other members of the Winchester community and their family members who are connected to the Theatre’s history.

As an undergraduate I am expected to thoroughly explore the evidence when completing my assignments – historians are quite rightly expected to justify their “facts” or interpretations through multiple sources. While these sources can take many forms, they are often found in the form of a monograph (book) or journal article. To be able to actually see the theatre as it stands today and directly meet people involved with its development is a real honour, and the greatest joy is that it brings the research I am producing to life, quite literally. It reminds me that the role of the historian is not just to tell stories for storytelling’s sake – history is about real people, and ensuring that the collective efforts and achievements of real people are properly commemorated and appreciated for future generations.

The Theatre Royal would not be standing today had it not been for the generosity, commitment and determination of the Winchester community. This will be reflected strongly when I come to deliver my presentation.

Sam Jenkins

Twitter: @changemakersam

Find out more about the history of the Theatre Royal Winchester here.

Workshop with the Welsh National Opera

Welsh National Opera hosts bespoke workshop course in Winchester

This autumn Theatre Royal Winchester is partnering with Welsh National Opera, Mayflower Theatre and University of Winchester to offer young people the opportunity to take part in a two-day musical workshop course.  The Opera Engage weekend is inspired by Welsh National Opera’s new uproarious musical comedy Rhondda Rips it Up!

Rhondda Rips It Up! tells the story of the unsung heroine of the Welsh Suffrage movement, Margaret Haig Thomas, the Viscountess Rhondda. As well as campaigning tirelessly for women’s suffrage, she became the lightning rod for women’s efforts during World War One, survived the sinking of the Lusitania and created the radical feminist magazine Time and Tide.

Opera Engage will take place across two days on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 November. The course has been created to offer young people aged 10-18 a supportive environment to develop new skills in composing, singing, acting and designing. Participants will work with a professional creative team from Welsh National Opera and the weekend will culminate in a devised performance inspired by Rhondda Rips it Up! on stage at Theatre Royal Winchester. Young people who take part in the course will also receive a ticket to see the sold-out performance of Rhondda Rips it Up! at the venue on Tuesday 20 November.

With 70 years of experience and an international reputation for performing and touring world-class productions, Welsh National Opera is dedicated to providing a springboard for the next generation of talent, delivering unique workshops and courses around the country.

Working with Theatre Royal Winchester, Welsh National Opera’s Opera Engage will provide local young people the opportunity to take part in a transformative experience through music, delivered in partnership between Hampshire’s leading arts venues.

The cost to take part is £50 per person and bursaries are available.

Opera Engage: Rhondda Rips it Up! takes place on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18, with a performance on Monday 19 November, at Theatre Royal Winchester. More information and tickets are available online at and from the on Box Office 01962 840 440

2017 Macmillan Winchester PPP Race report

2017 Macmillan Winchester PPP Race report

This year’s race went off without a hitch, guided by over 50 volunteer marshals along the race route. The weather was perfect with some cloud cover keeping the viaduct much cooler than previous years. Spirits were high, with over 400 of you making it to the start line, including over 40 teams.

The bike leg was the same as 2016 due to the continued closure of Barfield Close, coming in a little short of 20km, followed by a 5k loop along the Sustrans loop from Palmer’s Field to the Hockley Viaduct. Water levels were good and we had perfect paddling conditions for the 2k finishing kayak leg.

With none of the 2016 top 3 gents competing, Julian Mann won the men’s trophy with a total time of 01:02:38 after a close race with Matthew Robinson. They were followed in by Ed Chase in 3rd place. Lloyd Hoarton, managing partner of our main sponsor, Forresters, completed the cycle leg on a tandem with his stoker John Darlington in a very respectable 39 minutes.

Fran Upson relinquished her title to newcomer Charlotte Hoskins in the women’s race, completing the course in 01:12:23 to become the PPP’s first lady. Leanne Watters came in 2nd and Kate Pryde was 3rd (after doubling up on the 5k run after a chip malfunction!).

With a record 45 teams entered, the winning companies from the last two years battled it out again for the Creedon Cup, with AECOM Elite emerging victorious, finishing 3 minutes ahead of Forresters A team, with Procurement Heads finishing 3rd.

Heart-warming tale of the day were couple Rob and Jo Britton. Jo suffered a bike malfunction in Easton and ever the gentleman, Rob handed over his bike so Jo could finish the bike leg and proceeded to run the rest of the course with her bike on his shoulder. What a husband!

Male Individual
1st Julian Mann 01:02:38
2nd Matthew Robinson 01:03:21
3rd Ed Chase 01:06:27

Female Individual
1st Charlotte Hoskins 01:12:23
2nd Leanne Watters 01:13:06
3rd Kate Pryde 01:14:23

1st AECOM Elite 01:06:21
2nd Forresters A 01:09:23
3rd Procurement Heads 01:10:07

Click HERE for provisional results.

For relay teams, please search by race number as some of those results still need adjusting.

As always, we couldn’t do this event without all our sponsors and partners so a big thank you to Forresters, Northgate Vehicle Hire, Alton Sports, Bovis Homes, Safe Access Solutions, Williams Ewan, CycleTours UK, Hargroves Cycles, Woodmill Kayak, New Forest Activities, Liquid Logistics, Import Services, Condor, Fitique, Kingsgate Tennis Club, Winchester College, Winchester City Council, the village of Easton and many more.

Upwards of £25,000 has been raised for Macmillan Cancer Support as of this week. We can’t track them all, but special mentions to : Import Services, Blue Jelly (> £3K between these two companies alone) Conor Logan, Matthew Cox, Brian Beagan, Peter Dobson, Mike Hill, Harriet McGarry for their efforts.

Provisional date for 2018 is Sunday 15th July

Being Human

Jasmin Vardimon’s Pinocchio comes to Winchester
by Donald Hutera

Pinocchio Jasmin VardimonWhat does it mean to be human?

That question is the thematic core of Jasmin Vardimon’s dance-theatre take on Pinocchio, which is about to visit Theatre Royal Winchester for three performances (Oct 13 at 7.30pm, Oct 14 at 1.30pm and 7pm) as part of a big UK tour.

Based on the iconic tale of a wooden puppet who dreams of being a real boy, this brand-new show promises to be a thoughtful, magical and ingenious staging of a familiar story. Featuring imaginative designs as well as impish and moving characterisations, the focus is likely to be on vividly expressive physicality supplemented at key points by spoken text and songs. It is also something of a departure for Vardimon, who has thus far never used a pre-existing narrative as a creative source nor fashioned a work for family audiences (recommended ages: 7 and up).

Born in Israel (where, tellingly, one of her jobs was to write psychological profiles of those who would serve in the army) but based in the UK, Vardimon established her eponymous company nearly 20 years ago. She has gradually become a real force in UK dance both for the many productions she and her collaborators have made and, more recently, because of the performance training programme she and her colleagues devised to develop the next generation of dance-based all-rounders. It might also be worth mentioning that for the past decade Vardimon has been an associate artist of Sadler’s Wells, London’s leading international dance house. It’s a top venue but, alas, still something of a ‘boy’s club’ in a country where the disparity between the opportunities being offered to female choreographers and their higher-profile male counterparts can’t be ignored. Note, however, that following its Winchester performances Pinocchio will be presented at the London venue later this month.

But leaving the politics of art aside, it’s plain that Vardimon and company’s energies are all aimed at the new show. Rather than replicating the charming but somewhat sanitized Disney cartoon classic, Vardimon’s version is more closely aligned to Carlo Collodi’s original Italian novel published in 1883 as The Adventures of Pinocchio.

‘It was written at a time when Italian society was engaged morally and philosophically in a very important question about education’, explained Vardimon during a recent interview of the BBC arts programme Front Row. ‘Can peasants be educated? Can their children go to school and become real boys, or are they destined to be merely work-force donkeys?’ As she aptly remarked, the underlying issue of equality in Collodi’s novel is relevant today.

It is perhaps revealing that Vardimon chose to cast a female dancer in the lead role of her production. This was, she says, ‘a very conscious decision’ especially as it relates to being human and the differences between people in terms of their race, gender and so on.

Now if all of this makes this Pinocchio sound like some earnest sociological exercise, as a long-time professional watcher of Vardimon’s work I can pretty much guarantee this will not be the case. Set to an evocative and eclectic soundtrack, the production is a piece of living marionette theatre with changeable settings and even the characters themselves sometimes suspended on ropes. Vardimon knows her stuff as a theatre-maker, meaning the show is bound to be layered with images, sounds and movement that stimulate the senses, activate the brain and help release the kinds of deep feelings that human beings of all ages can ponder and savour. Pinocchio should, in short, be a real treat.

Donald Hutera writes about dance, theatre and live performance for The Times and many other publications and websites in the UK and abroad.


Theatre Royal Winchester

Box office: 10am – 5pm (Mon – Sat)
T: 01962 840440

Performances: Thurs 13 – Fri 14 October
Thurs 7.30pm
Fri 1.30pm, 7pm

Hat Fair 2016

Hat Fair - Of Rider and running horses
Hat Fair – Of Rider and running horses

Hat Fair is the UK’s longest running festival of outdoor arts.
The festival takes place every year during the first weekend of July across the historic city of Winchester.

There’s something for everyone to enjoy at each year’s festival, and best of all, it’s absolutely FREE!

manoAmano Hat Fair
manoAmano Hat Fair

With 234 performances planned for 2016 over 23 locations and 3 days, and with everything from space-walking astronauts to roof-top dancing and from mobile bath-tubs to peaceful sky-gazing, we hope you’ll find something that’s right up your street!

Hat Fair 2016 (1 – 3 July)

Friday & Saturday
– Two jam-packed dates of arts and culture at more than 20 locations all around Winchester city centre.

– All-day family picnic at Oram’s Arbour, with some of the world’s most spectacular street performers.

“The wonderful Winchester Hat Fair, a joyous weekend of street theatre and outdoor performance” The Guardian, 2015

For more information please visit

Putting dance on the map

by Winchester Guide editor Donald Hutera 
Map Dancemapdance, the University of Chichester’s MA touring company, is celebrating its tenth birthday with a richly mixed bill of works old and new by a gratifying range of choreographers. This enticingly varied programme lands at Theatre Royal Winchester on Feb 10 at 7.30pm. 
About the company
The name mapdance is derived from the fact that company members are enrolled at the University of Chichester in an MA in performance studies. All are chosen via audition by co-directors Yael Flexer and Detta Howe. The company runs from September till June. From June to November the dancers independently research and prepare the dissertations which complete their individual MAs. 
In terms of choosing choreographers, Howe and Flexer usually have a wish-list of people and ideas which they believe will provide the dancers (a baker’s dozen this year) with both practical experience and aesthetic rewards. ‘We also try to think about a diverse and complete show,’ says Howe. Typically this entails ‘a mix of theatre, movement-based and abstract work. We usually try to work with someone who’s established, someone new and someone international, and remount a previously seen piece.’
Map DanceAbout the work
Eminent British choreographer Richard Alston’s rehearsal director and associate choreographer Martin Lawrance has re-staged the former’s renowned Roughcut for mapdance. Premiered by Rambert Dance Company in 1990, and revived nearly a decade later by Alston’s own eponymous troupe, the work was initially made to celebrate the energy and exuberance of Rambert’s young dancers. It has now been specially selected to do the same for mapdance’s 10th anniversary cast. The throwaway energy of the movement is anchored by a very specific use of the body’s weight and pull, a physical emphasis that articulates and syncopates the intricate rhythmic impulses of the New York Counterpoint for clarinet by Steve Reich
Inspired by the sketches, inventions, architecture and artistry of Leonardo da Vinci, and first seen as part of mapdance 2015, Abi Mortimer’s Schemes, Dreams and Machine captures the sensation of time and movement within his paintings and zooms in on the details of individual relationships. As she explains, ‘was based on the cognitive workings of Leonardo as artist, engineer and inventor. The process of learning, coming to light, calculating and adjusting found its way into expressive movement for a timeless community of people who’ve been living the same life and same day for 500-plus years.’ Fresh and full of feeling, Mortimer’s dance is about’ the liveliness of human action and thought caught in Leonardo’s paintings and effectively paused in time.  In the last section this great man’s ability to live inside his head, and dream of possibilities beyond the scope of current barriers, is explored with just a little emotional support from Etta James!’ 
Map DanceA cacophony and collage of dance, text and music (stretching from Beethoven, Strauss and Bach to a Propellerheads’ 1997 pop classic featuring Dame Shirley Bassey), Liz Aggiss’ History Repeating……completes a mapdance trilogy begun in 2008 with Don’t Put Your Daughter on the Stage and continued in 2014 via Cut with the Kitchen Knife. As Aggiss herself puts it, ‘A troupe of oddball performers is hell-bent on recovering bodies from the library. Inspired by expressive, eccentric or grotesque dance, and British music hall, this performance pays homage to past dance artists of the past, drags them into the present and reflects on the challenges still facing contemporary dance audiences.’ Or, to quote mapdance co-director Detta Howe about Aggiss’ outrageously smart new work, ‘It’s sad, it’s funny and it smacks the audience around the face.’
Kevin (Motionhouse) Finnan describes Passage as a valediction for the Syrian refugees who have attempted to flee the conflict by sea in small boats. It’s a momentous subject, and I don’t know if I have the ability to do justice to such suffering and grief, but I had to try.’ This new work is in two movements. Part one presents as context what has transpired in Syria. Finnan’s creative starting point, however, was Scottish composer James MacMillan’s Miserere – music which forms the dance’s second section, Philip Glass’ resonant Company 1, 2, 4 also features in a piece in which each performer has a large rock which, Finnan says, ‘takes on a range of meanings during the dance. They are beautiful things and very expressive.’
ME AND THEN, according to choreographer Lee Brummer, explores duality via the notion and sensations of a young self in an older self. This new work, which she has created with Israel Aloni,’visits various marks on the timeline of a life, and the hopes and aspirations for a future supported by the past but created by us right now.  How powerful are our memories, and can we maintain a youthful spirit inside an ageing body?’
Map DanceBooking details Date & Time:
Wednesday, 10 February, 7.30pm Venue: Theatre Royal Winchester
More info:
Running Time: 90 mins (plus interval)

What is it about Winchester?

A military marching band in Winchester High Street
A military marching band in Winchester High Street ©GOlive

What is it about Winchester? Over the last few weeks I’ve stumbled across outdoor Shakespeare (The Taming of the Shrew), a brass band, a man in a top hat and tails clearing up litter, face-painting, a real ale festival, a magic show in amongst myriad markets and acoustic guitarists punctuating my various journeys through the city.

I’ve been back in Winchester for two years now having been away for over a decade. The year I moved back was the Olympic year, which saw hoards of Wintonians gathering together in the cathedral grounds to picnic and cheer on our newly found sporting heroes. As autumn fell we marched together in a spectacular torchlight firework procession. Ice and rain aside, even the most hardened humbug couldn’t resist indulging in a little Yuletide fare at the now nationally- renowned Christmas market set against the romantic backdrop of Winchester Cathedral – an iconic landmark which just can’t be ignored as the centre point of this fine city.

Ancient woodland in Winchester
Ancient woodland in Winchester ©GOlive

But Winchester is more than grand or strictly seasonal events, nor can its splendours be pinned to just one admittedly stupendous edifice. We have a university, an art school, the Riverpark Leisure Centre, the Buttercross (Winchester’s 14th century commercial epicentre), theatres and museums, parks and gardens, pubs and restaurants (or two-in-one, like the Wykeham Arms, the Queen Inn or the Black Boy, among many others), hidden book-stalls, the library, the Discovery Centre – a place where one minute I can be singing ‘twinkle, twinkle little star’ with my two year-old in a room full of babies and toddlers and the next I can be admiring Grayson Perry’s ‘Walthamstow Tapestry.’ We’re surrounded by ancient woodland and lush green agriculture, feeding our famed and fortnightly farmers’ market. There’s live music, comedy nights, Anthony Gormley’s Sound II, the naked man on a horse and other sculptures, the great medieval hall on the grounds of Winchester Castle with its legendary Arthurian Round Table, King Alfred’s statue and both Jane Austen’s last home and final resting place. We’re dripping with history but can also boast of an exciting creative economy.

Like any thriving community Winchester is made up of loads of fascinatingly varied individuals united by our locality. Although there’s a lot going on in this city most of the time I’m not convinced that everybody knows about it. To redress the balance I’m gathering together a team of smart and insatiably curious people who are hoping to change all that via the brand-new Winchester Guide, or WinGuide for short. The passion of our contributors will reflect the many different voices in the city and its many colourful strands of culture and possibility.

We’ll bring you an overview of some of the best that our city has to offer with informed opinions on arts and culture, lifestyle, events, food and drink and much, much more. We aim to provide you with a lively, friendly and eclectic mix of reviews and previews, snippets and offers, must-do’s and must-sees. We also warmly welcome your contributions and invitations to be featured in the new Winchester Guide. Ideally en route you’ll discover, along with us, some of Winchester’s hidden gems and best-kept secrets.

Our first feature will be coming out next week and will be brought to you by Iuean Rees, one of our many contributors. Watch this space and follow us @Win_Guide.

Winchester Cathedral and grounds
Winchester Cathedral and grounds ©GOlive