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Hull New Theatre

History of the Hull New Theatre

The Hull New Theatre has long been the heart of entertainment in the city of three crowns. Standing proud and magnificent in Kingston Square, the Hull New Theatre has survived many threats to its future, including a direct hit during the war and the threat of being turned into a bingo hall.

Since the curtain rose on Noel Gay's Me and My Girl, the Hull New Theatre has continued to provide first class entertainment for the people of Hull, East Yorkshire and beyond.

The Hull New Theatre story began way back in 1924 with the Hull Repertory Company, who performed in the Little Theatre, a converted lecture theatre which stood on the site of the Central Fire Station. Amidst growing financial problems, the company engaged Peppino Santangelo, an experienced repertory pioneer, to guide its fortunes.

Hull New Theatre in the 1960sAfter just one month the tables began to turn and by 1939 the company had cleared its debts and made a profit of £4,364. It was then that Mr Santangelo turned his attention to the Assembly Rooms next door, seeing, with his extraordinary vision, a new home for the company. With his unquenchable enthusiasm and forceful character, the plan was almost complete when, in 1939, war broke out and all building work was halted. However, due to his steely determination, Peppino begged, borrowed and improvised and the New Theatre, Hull opened in a blaze of glory on 16 October 1939.

The performances continued throughout the war. Audiences were thin at first but producing managements, suffering terrible effects during the Blitz, began to tour West End productions to 'slightly less hazardous' provincial theatres. The theatre bar was reinforced as a bomb shelter and although Hull was badly bombed during the war and many buildings destroyed, the theatre received only one direct hit. On the night of May 7/8, the scenic studios were hit, demolishing the stage lantern, two auditorium doors, the front row of the stalls and all the props and costumes of the Sadler's Wells Opera Company.

Following the war, the theatre continued to prosper as a repertory theatre and in 1951 was purchased by the Whitehall Company. To combat falling audiences due to the popularity of television, new policies were introduced of booking touring shows for half the year, interspersed with seasons of repertory.

Hull New Theatre todayIn 1959, 20 years after his dream was realised, Peppino Santangelo retired and was replaced by William Sharpe. In 1961, following a further fall in audience numbers, experimental bingo sessions were introduced. Queues of 1000 people, all desperate to try their luck, quickly grew around the building and it looked as if the future of the theatre was decided. Loath to loose one of the city's greatest assets, Hull City Council held an emergency meeting and decided to buy the New Theatre to ward off the bingo entrepreneurs for good. The Kingston upon Hull New Theatre Company was formed to run the theatre and throughout the 1960's audiences remained steady, playing to some 150,000 people each year.

Improvements were made in 1968 including the re-seating of the auditorium, enlargement of the orchestra pit, deepening the stage, the instalment of new dressing rooms, toilets and showers and a new lighting board. Following the retirement of William Sharpe in 1974, David Sandford took over as Theatre Manager, introducing regular visits by major national touring companies.

In 1985 the New Theatre, Hull underwent a massive refurbishment, reopening its doors as the Hull New Theatre with a new manager, William McDonald, at a glittering Royal Gala attended by Princess Anne. In 1986 Russell Hills was appointed Theatre Director and in 1989 the Hull New Theatre celebrated its 50th anniversary.

In 1995, further improvements and alterations were made, namely the improvement of access for less able bodied patrons via a lift from Jarrett Street to the Foyer and a lift from the foyer to the lounge bar.

Throughout its life, the Hull New Theatre has faced challenges and uncertainty, yet it has remained true to the purpose for which it was intended. Peppino Santangelo's dream was to create a tradition of 'playing for the people', a policy still in place today which has meant a vast number of performances and performers gracing the stage of one of the best regional theatres in the country.

Hull New Theatre

Hull New Theatre
Hull City Council
Kingston Square

Telephone: 01482 300 300
Text phone: 01482 300 349

Accessible restaurant or cafeAccessible liftAssistance dogs welcomeAudio descriptionHearing loopFacilities for visually impaired visitorsWheelchair ramp
Please note the pin on the map is based on the postcode only and may not be placed at the exact location of the building

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