Director’s Blog September 2020

One of the by-products of the coronavirus lockdown has been the way in which performance art has reached new audiences around the world as artists and institutions stream content to people starved of live performance.

From Lady Gaga and Take That singing their hearts out from their front rooms and garages, to Patrick Stewart reading sonnets on Instagram, and the National Theatre streaming classic plays on Youtube, art has found a way of reaching out to salve these troubled times, and gained millions of new fans along the way.

Here at the Hall, we’ve been doing our bit too, signposting visitors to our website to a weekly round-up of armchair entertainment from around the world and closer to home, including Life in Lockdown blogs from our HFC Youth members. We’ve hosted Unlocked a new online dance programme for our young dancers and their creative endeavours, and supported our many freelancers and artists with a mixture of weekly online drop ins and bespoke 1-2-1- funding advice and guidance to help navigate this tricky time.

There is no doubt that performance has the power to change people – and we’ve seen it time and again. Whether it’s a young person tapping a rich but previously hidden seam of self-confidence the moment they take the stage, or a ballet audience gasping in awe at a jaw-dropping leap, we emerge from a performance as slightly changed people, energised by what we have just been part of together.

It’s that shared experience which makes live theatre so magical. And it’s our passion to bring that experience to more people in Cornwall that is driving the £21.6m transformation of the Hall for Cornwall.

Since closing our doors in June 2018 we have been creating a space that matches our ambition and gives Cornwall the theatre it deserves, while revealing and conserving our building’s 175-year history.

We’re adding over 350 seats, taking the total to 1,352, to attract more higher quality shows. There will be a warmer welcome with more communal bars and cafés on both sides of the building. A brand new front entrance on Boscawen Street will lead into an Ope that runs through to Lemon Street, giving behind-the-scenes glimpses of the workings of our auditorium. We’re nurturing new talent with collaborative workspace for creative businesses, and we’re improving wheelchair access and accessible seating.

Our aim is to make sure that 300,000 people step through our doors every year.

By 2025/26 we’ll bring £35.6 million to the Cornish economy, creating 165 jobs, and over five years we’ll work with 50,000 young people in every primary and secondary school in Cornwall. I also think that we can play a vital role in Cornwall’s post-pandemic economic recovery, helping to bring footfall and vitality back to Truro city centre, and I hope lifting the hearts of people from across Cornwall along the way.

Despite being closed through the pandemic, we’ve not been immune to its effects. The impact of lockdown meant we lost a month of building work and since reopening the site our contractor has been operating at reduced capacity to comply with social distancing measures. These covid restrictions have put our programme back by around five months, which means we are targeting Spring 2021 for our opening. That delay has led to some increased costs and as a charity we’ve also seen our fundraising plans impacted, with community activities deferred because of the virus.

We’re very grateful however to have secured some additional funding from the Government’s Getting Building Fund, and Cornwall Council is considering a request for some further investment to ensure the project can be completed as planned.

We’ve also had a tremendous response to our ongoing Name a Seat campaign, with £120,000 raised to date. We continue to be awed and humbled by our army of passionate supporters and like you we look forward to the day when we can open our doors to one and all once again.


Celebrate #LoveTheatreDay with us and help raise the curtain on Cornwall’s Cultural Future….

We truly believe in giving Cornwall the theatre it deserves and want to create a new kind of public space in the heart of our county, where all are welcome, where Cornwall's creative talent can break new ground and where our next generation can be supported.

Not many people know that we are a charity and we’ve worked passionately over the last three years to raise just over 90% of our £21.6million target. We’ve been overwhelmed and delighted that so many of you have been inspired by our vision and supported us thus far and are now working hard to ensure we raise the remaining funds as we look forward to reopening and raising our curtain next Autumn.

Could you help us raise these final funds by taking part in our #LOVETHEATRE dress as your favourite theatre character day?

This year on Wednesday 20 November, we’ll not only be celebrating our 22nd birthday but also raising funds through celebrating #LoveTheatreDay , a national celebration of all things theatre and stage.

We’ll be asking schools, friends, work colleagues and businesses to DONATE £1.00 to dress up for the day as their favourite stage or screen character or someone they’ve seen or been inspired by on Hall For Cornwall’s stage.

Maybe you want to swish your cloak of many colours by dressing as Joseph in his Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat or gather your merry men and be the prince of thieves Robin Hood? Razzle dazzle ‘em as Roxy Hart or dance all night as the ‘luverly Eliza Dolittle?

Be a Cleopoatra, a Rizzo, an Inspector Javert, Fagin or even a Bob the Builder….whoever you choose, we’d love to see your efforts!

Could your workplace or community group get involved and support us? 

All monies raised will go towards developing and transforming our building so that we can fully support new plans for innovative community learning and talent programmes, support more schools and young people and ensure we provide opportunities for every young person in Cornwall to feel the benefits of live performance. We aim to double our Youth Theatre and Dance companies to generate more careers into the creative industries and intend to offer creative learning labs for pupils and teachers for all primary and secondary schools in Cornwall. 

Please support us in helping the next generation of local talent to flourish and unlocking the confidence, pride and self-belief that live performance can bring to so many.

How we can support you?

We’d love to see your pictures and efforts and as a thank you we'll invite you in before we reopen and give you the opportunity to stand on our stage in our brand new auditorium and raise the curtain for the very first time……

If you’d like to get involved, please email Sean Sweeney ([email protected]) 01872 321974 or Charlotte Somers ([email protected]) 01872 321979 and we can send you an information sheet along with lots of top tips on who to dress up as and some easy fix pointers for costumes. Let's RAZZLE DAZZLE 'em Cornwall!



Director’s Update: Reflecting on the last 12 months since closure

We are now just over a year into our redevelopment plans, with the clearance and stripping out complete, the roof raised and the steel framework going up to support our new three-tiered auditorium. Around 200 tonnes of steel will be needed overall for the roof, balconies and floor structures. The next phase will see us digging down into the ground to create the plenum for the new auditorium heating and ventilation system, and then building up to create the new auditorium floor.

We managed to reveal the early stages of the transformation to the public in March and welcomed nearly 2,000 people in just four hours from Penzance to Plymouth to our Open Day. It was a real delight to open our home to so many – albeit with hard hats on! We had a lovely legacy film made of the day by talented students from Falmouth University, so do take a look online using this link if you were unable to join us  We’ll be announcing another moment to explore the building this autumn and hope as many of you can join before we close the building for the final phases of construction and fit out.

Jethro Compton, Associate Artist of Hall for Cornwall has had an incredibly successful summer with his critically acclaimed new production based on the short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – which played at London’s Southwark Playhouse. With HFC support in the project’s early stages, Jethro has created a truly intimate and Cornish perspective on this incredible story, a sleepy fishing harbour at the end of the First World War – home to a most curious story of one man, and the timeless tale of a love that defies all odds. We’re thrilled that Jethro’s career continues to go from strength to strength and we’re continuing to support him with introductions to producers and venues who are keen that this fabulous production has a longer life within the West End and beyond.

We were delighted that our Youth Theatre Company were chosen to perform at the National Theatre as part of this year’s recent National Theatre Connections Festival. Connections is the largest youth theatre festival in the UK which celebrates new writing for young people aged 13-19. Ten new plays by both established and emerging contemporary playwrights were exclusively commissioned for young people to stage and perform at this year’s Festival. As one of only ten groups selected from 273 companies and 6,500 young people across the UK to perform on the National’s stage, we are proud to be able to support the next generation of Cornwall’s young people in showcasing their acting, movement and musical talents within such a prestigious festival.

With thanks to funding from amongst others, the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and the Chartered Accountants Livery during closure, we have been able to adapt and widen the reach of our youth work in the community whilst closed. This month, we have worked in partnership with Illogan School, with a creative writing and live performance piece involving the whole school to include dance, drama and music. The script has been collaboratively devised utilising writing, reading and performance skills, supporting pupils and teachers with their work in developing literacy and social development.  As the headteacher comments, “The children do not currently have a high-quality drama input nor have they ever pulled together in an inclusive production with professional teams and experienced the thrill and pride of performing for a wider audience. The Hall For Cornwall project is a much-needed unifying force for the entire community”.

In May, our corporate supporters raised just over £5,000 for our transformation redevelopment with an early morning Fun-Run at the Eden Project, including team HFC and our Youth Dancers with the 5k team challenge. Later this year in September, you’ll be able to play a part and make a mark on our transformation as we launch our Name A Seat campaign with all support acknowledged through dedicated plaques on seats in our new state of the art auditorium. We have a very special ambassador fronting and supporting the campaign, so watch this space!

It’s been a busy and rewarding 12 months and we are so looking forward to what the next 12 months will bring. As always, we thank you for your continued support.


HFC Youth Dance HFC Youth Theatre Theatre

June Update

Over the past few weeks we have been talking to members of the public about our transformation, and working with schools and community groups on a range of amazing dance and drama projects.

It was great to have the chance to talk to so many people about the progress of our project at the Royal Cornwall Show. There was so much passion and enthusiasm for Hall for Cornwall, with many people saying they were really missing us and can’t wait for the re-opening of our theatre next year. We share this enthusiasm and are looking forward to announcing details of the new programme.

Over the last ten years we have welcomed over 2 million people to the Hall including 100,000 young people and school groups. We also run a number of youth companies for young actors and dancers and are very proud of all the young people who form part of these groups.

This year some of our young performers have secured places at leading national drama and dance schools. There is intense competition for these places and we are delighted to have played a part in helping them on the journey to fulfilling their dreams.
Earlier this month 40 members of our youth theatre group performed at Trebah Gardens as part of Operation Neptune, a drama project organised as part of the events to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D Day. We have also been working with the Royal Shakespeare Company and 99 pupils from Treviglas, Bodmin College, Brannel, and Humphry Davy secondary schools and Cubert, Delabole, and Tintagel primary schools as part of our RSC Associate Schools partnership. Each school performed a 10 minute piece from a Shakespeare play of their choosing based around the theme of “Heroes and Villains” at AMATA in Falmouth.

Last weekend Ned Ratcliffe, who won a place at the National Youth Dance Company in the Summer, performed with the company in Plymouth, and members of our Junior Dance company took to the stage at Sterts as part of the Midsummer Dance Festival.
If all this was not enough our Senior Youth Theatre group were chosen to perform at the National Theatre at the end of June as part of this year’s NT’s Connections festival. With just 10 youth theatre companies chosen to perform from the 273 groups and 6,500 talented young people from across the UK, this is an amazing achievement for our 25 young people who closed the nationwide festival on Saturday, 29 June with their performance of The Sad Club.

Future projects planned for July include “taking over” Illogan School as part of a week long drama project; working with Nancledra School on a dance piece to be  performed at Geevor, and developing plans for a story telling event with KEAP and The Story Republic which will involve four schools and two community groups working together to create newspapers and stories.

Julien Boast : HFC Chief Executive and Creative Director

Redevelopment Project Theatre

Our First Public Open Day

Following the success of our first Open Day, work is progressing really well on our redevelopment project. The temporary roof has been removed and Kier are now laying the new roof insulation. Work is also taking place to install roof lights in the upper mezzanine areas, and the natural ventilation system in the auditorium.
Our new building, which will provide 300 more seats within the three-tiered auditorium, an unveiled heritage, lively bars and cafés and a creative digital hub with vibrant work and social spaces, remains on schedule to re-open in Autumn 2020.  So far we have raised just over 90% of the funding required for our transformation. We now need to raise the remaining £2.2million to fully realise our ambitions.
We officially launched our community fund raising campaign just after Easter with a 5km fun run at the Eden Project. We were joined by teams of energetic runners from companies and organisations from across Cornwall who braved the Cornish mizzle and steep hills of the Eden Project to raise money to help us create our exciting new theatre. A huge thank you to HFC supporter Julian Jenkins for organising the event, the teams from Santander, Bishop Fleming Chartered Accountants, Stephens Scown, Kier, Miller Commercial, and Kepak for putting on their trainers, and the large numbers of supporters who came to cheer everyone around the course.
We will be announcing further fund raising initiatives over the next few months so visit our website and Facebook page to find out how you can get involved. We are also planning to be at this year’s Royal Cornwall Show so come and see us if you are going along.
Last month we signed a new Memorandum of Understanding with Falmouth University setting out our shared commitment to driving the Cornish economy through the promotion of the Creative Industries over the next five years. Cornwall is a very special place with a unique cultural heritage and wealth of creative and entrepreneurial talent. We have always had a positive working relationship with Falmouth University and, as part of the MOU, we will be strengthening this relationship and using our networks, infrastructure and knowledge capital to transform Cornwall’s cultural and economic future.
The MOU focuses on three key areas –People, Places and Business – with specific objectives including developing and retaining local talent, producing and delivering a Culture Strategy for Truro, developing ‘creative clusters’ throughout Cornwall and encouraging new investment to co-finance start-ups and providing support for talented students and entrepreneurs.
Finally, in another piece of good news,  two talented members of our flagship youth programme have been offered places at leading national drama and dance schools for this September. HFC Youth Theatre group member Josh Williams has accepted a place at The Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, one of the most prestigious drama schools in the country which was attended by Oscar winning actor Olivia Coleman. At the same time Youth Dance Company member Ned Ratcliffe has secured a place to study dance at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance, one of the UK’s leading conservatoires, just a few months after being awarded a place in the National Youth Dance Company.
We are very proud of all of our young people who form part of our youth companies. Our Arts Development team works hard to provide them with the right kind of training and the right kind of experiences to best equip them with the skills and confidence needed to realise their dreams. Congratulations to Josh and Ned and we will wish them great success in their careers in the arts.

City Hall Community Heritage Stories History Music Theatre Truro

‘A Cobra and Basket’: Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society and City Hall

‘A Cobra and Basket’: Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society and City Hall

By Kate Neale

In 1961, the Secretary of the Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society received a letter from London confirming an order of a cobra and basket to be delivered to City Hall. A curious order! But apparently, not an unusual one in the day-to-day running of an ambitious local theatre group.

First formed in 1912, the Society performed in different venues in Truro before settling at City Hall for many of their shows. Originally performing Gilbert and Sullivan operas such as The Pirates of Penzance and Ruddigore, after 1929 the group mainly opted to perform more modern musicals such as Oklahoma!, My Fair Lady and South Pacific.

In 1961 the Society performed Kismet as its fiftieth anniversary show. Kismet originally premiered in 1953 in Los Angeles, before being performed in San Francisco and then at the Stoll Theatre in London’s West End. The story is set in an imagined historic Baghdad, and follows the adventures of a wily poet, and the love affairs of his daughter. The Society’s production at City Hall included a cast of over 40 main performers, additional dancers, and a 24 piece orchestra.

Archive material held at the Cornwall Record Office shows what an undertaking putting on a show such as Kismet could be. The Society arranged for band parts from theatre company Samuel French, scenery and props to be delivered to Truro train station, and of course the cobra and basket from a stage production company in London!

The fiftieth jubilee was an opportunity to showcase the Society, and the Mayor and Mayoress of Truro were invited to attend the performance.  It was also an apt moment for the Society to reflect on its own history; a large souvenir programme, printed by Truro firm Netherton and Worth, included snippets and stories of performances from past years. Former and life members of the society were warmly welcomed back to celebrate the Society’s ongoing work.

City Hall and Hall for Cornwall has been an important venue for Truro Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society over the course of its history. We hope that in its new form, our theatre will continue to be a hub for local creativity for years to come!