Norwich Theatre Royal celebrates its volunteer stewards
- Credit: supplied by Norwich Theatre Royal
Norwich Theatre Royal's unsung heroes took centre stage when a special party was held at the city venue to celebrate the 116 voluntary stewards.
The event on Sunday marked the 25th anniversary of the volunteer stewarding programme which began in 1992 after the Theatre Royal reopened following a major refurbishment.
The group marked the occasion with a get-together including a buffet and a baking competition where the show-stopping ensemble of homemade cakes included everything from a recreation of Mary Poppins' hat and umbrella to a cake baked in the shape of a theatre's circle seats and stalls.
About 83 of the stewards attended the celebrations, including six who have been volunteering for 25 years - Jackie Aston, Ruth Maddern, Patrick Monaghan, Shirley Tomlin, Mary Watts and Anna Leer.
They were joined for the occasion by the theatre's front-of-house staff past and present and chief executive Stephen Crocker
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Lesley Anderson said: 'I've loved every minute of volunteering, ever since I first stewarded a performance of Return To The Forbidden Planet in 1993. I've talked to so many fascinating people, I've seen things I'd never have expected to see, and I've learned so much.'
Anna Leer added: 'I've loved so much of what I've seen, but Mamma Mia was something special – it was here for four weeks and we had audiences aged from three to 93, all of them loving it.'
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Marney Meakin was the theatre's front of house manager at the time the scheme was introduced in 1992. She said: 'I remember the very start. Peter Wilson had taken over from Dick Condon and we were opening the building after a major refurb, so we were re-thinking how the theatre was going to be run. To provide the number of staff that you truly need would be very expensive, so we hit on the idea of volunteer stewards – and boy have they proved valuable!
'Because they come to see things that they wouldn't necessarily choose, our stewards often discover an unknown passion for opera or dance. And they're terrific at spreading the word – if they like something, all of Norwich will hear about it! They're ambassadors for the theatre.'
Matthew Piper, who took over the role from Marney, added: 'I think it's fair to say that as the eyes and ears of the staff here, our voluntary stewards can be relied on to step in to pre-empt problems and smooth things over on countless occasions. We hold around 400 performances a year here, so that's an awful lot of hours to cover. These stewards do an amazing job, and we're hugely grateful.'
Stephen Crocker, the theatre's chief executive, said: 'We calculated that over the past 25 years, our stewards have given around half a million hours of their time: welcoming customers, making them feel at home and making sure that when you come into our building, you're looked after and shown right to your seat. We can't thank them enough for that.'