The Bishop Blogs…

Bishop David Urquhart

Bishop David Urquhart

As the fabulous Sister Act, produced by Whoopi Goldberg, enjoys its last two weeks of its current UK tour here at Birmingham Hippodrome, we took the opportunity to ask the Bishop of Birmingham, David Urquhart,  a member of our Board,  to tell us about his theatrical experiences…

I have now been on the Board of Birmingham Hippodrome for about 3 years; I was attracted to being a member as I was already a regular visitor for ballet, musicals and opera at a very popular venue for tens of thousands of people across the West Midlands.

Birmingham Hippodrome is certainly a well run business, led by Stuart Griffiths and his highly committed staff, with a passion for spreading culture and entertainment. Our Chairman, John Crabtree suggested I join others drawn from business, the arts, politics, media and commerce…an opportunity I simply could not refuse.

Converted to Christ aged 18, in Idi Amin’s Uganda, I saw the transforming power of a relationship with Jesus in the lives of those Ugandans with whom I was working.  After 10 years in the oil industry I was called to ordination as a minister in the Church of England, starting in Hull and coming eventually to Birmingham as Bishop, via Coventry and Birkenhead.

Bishop David Urquhart and Brenda Edwards

Bishop David Urquhart and Brenda Edwards

My favourite show at the Hippodrome has to be ‘We Will Rock You’ which starred, among others, X Factor finalist Brenda Edwards who I was lucky enough to meet after one of the performances! I also enjoyed this year’s BRB performance of Far From the Madding Crowd which was especially highly appreciated by my guests from California.  I am also really looking forward to seeing Sister Act for the first time on stage…

Out of a long list, my favourite hymn is ‘For all the Saints, who from their labours rest’ to the tune by Vaughan Williams, with plenty of hopeful Alleluias! From the shows I would choose Bohemian Rhapsody – ‘Is this the real life, or is this just fantasy?’ an excellent question for all of us as we find a firm foundation for all that we are and do.

You can find out more about the Bishop of  Birmingham HERE.

Sister Act runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until 20 Oct 2012 – CLICK HERE for more info and to book tickets.

Bloggers investigate how 16-21 year old’s can get their hands on thousands of £5 tickets…

Alex and Marcus at 'Six Summer Saturdays'Press and PR Assistant, Ben Wooldridge tells us about Birmingham Hippodrome’s brand new ticket scheme, ‘First Night’ and some new recruits:

Those of you lucky enough to be under the age of 26, may have heard that at Birmingham Hippodrome we have a brand new scheme for young theatre goers. We know a good thing when we see one and couldn’t resist the chance to follow the path ‘A Night Less Ordinary*’ had set and develop our own scheme for young theatre goers – be they loyal enthusiast’s or modest newcomers.  In May this year we launched our First Night scheme, giving 16-21 year old’s the chance to see selected first night performances for just £5!

The initiative has opened doors for many young patrons, offering them the chance to see performances including musicals, plays, ballet, opera and contemporary dance for a mere fiver.   Amongst our First Nighter’s we found two enthusiasts,  Alex Woolliscroft and Marcus Hubbard who have now become our First Night reviewers, reporting back on the opening of new productions, press launches of forthcoming shows and writing openly and honestly about their experiences with Birmingham Hippodrome’s brand new scheme.  Marcus and Alex, both 17, have joined us during a period of some of the most important theatrical evenings of this year, including the opening night of We Will Rock You.

At the press night (attended by Brian May himself!) the bloggers had the chance to experience the opening of a major musical up close and personal, including access to the VIP reception and pre-show party.   Marcus described the event as “My highlight so far…  to meet lots of new people at the drinks reception and to see such an amazing show was a lot of fun!”.  After well and truly getting their rock-on the two reporters rushed home to blog about their First Night at We Will Rock You – you can read Alex’s blog HERE and Marcus’s review HERE.

Following on from the excitement of the previous evening, the web-wise reporters then joined us in our Stageside restaurant for the launch of our outdoor programme, Six Summer Saturdays. Animating the city with the very best outdoor and interactive theatre, the series of six weekends of FREE performance follows on from last year’s extremely successful festival.   At the launch, Marcus and Alex were joined by a host of weird and wonderful characters including two very large, very red and very friendly lobsters! The event also gave our bloggers the chance to try out some very special glasses.  The specs allow the wearer, via a video camera built into the front of the frames, to record and film the events around them from a very personal perspective.  You can see the results by visiting our Youtube Channel.

To round off a week or so of star studded special events our young reviewers made the journey to Villa Park for the launch of next summer’s blockbuster production of Dirty Dancing. The pinkest, glitziest of launches offered the bloggers a chance to preview the show via special performances and Q&A sessions as well as sitting on the specially reserved press table and a chin wag with some of the most influential of press contacts in Birmingham.

As representatives of the scheme, both Marcus and Alex have shown the enthusiasm and passion for theatre that the First Night initiative encourages and Birmingham Hippodrome is very proud to have created.   Talking about the scheme, Marcus said “I think First Night is a good idea because it makes theatre accessible for people who might not go as often. The scheme means I’ll be able to see a broader range of shows that I wouldn’t usually book tickets to see, which is what I’m most looking forward to.” For more information on how you can join the First Night scheme for free, click HERE.

 Marcus and Alex continue to report on the First Night Scheme and their experiences- see below for links to their blogs:

*In February 2009 Arts Council England launched A Night Less Ordinary in association with Metro. The scheme offered over half a million (618,000) free theatre tickets to anyone under 26 at more than 200 venues throughout England.

Charity Fundraising to West End Stardom – Birmingham Hippodrome staff do it all!

Front of House Customer Services Assistant,  Natasha Parker reveals that there’s a lot more to the theatre’s Customer Services team than meets the eye.

As far as most patrons are concerned, the people that greet them when they arrive at the theatre are simply starry-eyed. Some may even be thespians-in-the-making, people who sell a few programmes to make ends meet until fame whisks them off to the West End. For some this may be true, take Amy Booth-Steel for example. Once a Front of House steward for Birmingham Hippodrome, she found her break on BBC’s I’d Do Anything; Andrew Lloyd Webber’s search for Nancy in Oliver. Despite not winning the show, she’s gone on to perform in The Sound of Music and Sister Act in London. Not bad for a girl that sold ice-creams.

For many however, life may not reach such dizzy heights, but we certainly have something to shout about. Sally Staff, Trainee Supervisor for the

Sally Staff and Becky Marsden walking to London.

Front of House team walked (yes walked!) from the Hippodrome to London’s Dominion Theatre last week in aid of the Mercury Phoenix Trust, the charity set up in memory of Queen’s Freddie Mercury, which was brought to our attention during the production of We Will Rock You last summer. Will she be inspired to do it again in honour of the musical returning next year? We’ll have to wait and see.

The charity work doesn’t end there. Our Head of Customer Services, Jonathan Thompson, ran The Great North Run in 1 hour and 49 minutes last week in aid of The Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, and if that wasn’t enough, he’s participating in the Birmingham Half Marathon on October 24th. So, if you’re coming to see a show in the next few weeks, feel free to congratulate them – they’ll like the attention!

While some staff may be out saving the world or performing onstage, the rest of us have to get on with some work. When we’re not serving you in kiosks or nagging you for tickets at the doors, we’re working in other areas of the theatre. Whether it’s at corporate conferences or outdoor events such as Artsfest or Six Summer Saturdays, we’re keeping ourselves busy. Two weeks ago I worked at the Press Launch for this year’s pantomime, Dick Whittington. Complete with bright and shiny costumes, complimentary cupcakes and Orville harassing unsuspecting journalists, panto had well and truly arrived, much to the media and the staff’s excitement.

That same week, cast members from Blaze came in to lead a street dance workshop with sixth-form dance students from local schools ahead of their shows next week. The results of the workshop can be seen in pre-show performances in the foyers from Thursday 7 October along with other local talent. If the workshop is anything to go by, the show promises to be thrilling. I too was offered the chance to join in, but after considering my dancing skills I thought better of it, so you can all breathe a sigh of relief.

Jonathan Thompson and Yozi at the starting line

So next time you venture into the foyers before a show, you may find yourself wondering just what we’ve been up to while you were away. Whether it’s working with puppets or raising money, you can be sure that there’s never a dull moment.

We Will Rock You returns  to Birmingham Hippodrome in 2011.   Blaze opens on 7-9 October.  Performances in foyer pre-show on 7 October from 7pm.