Ripon Theatre Festival has published its programme of events due to take place 23-26 June. This inaugural Festival sees more than 20 professional theatre companies and acts taking part in a remarkable number of events crammed into four days and more than a dozen venues from small back rooms and cafés to Fountains Abbey, the new Arts Hub, Ripon Library, green spaces and city streets.
Drama highlights include a visit from renowned radical theatre company Red Ladder from Leeds with their production of The Damned United, about Brian Clough’s relationship with Leeds United and made famous by the 2009 film starring Michael Sheen. Open-air theatre specialists Illyria come to the Cloisters at Fountains Abbey with their production of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the recently-refurbished Arts Hub will play host to visits from two North Yorkshire-based touring companies, Fell-Foss Theatre and Pyramus & Thisbe Productions. Fell-Foss Theatre will be presenting Crusoe’s Island – “one man’s story of shipwreck, solitude and salvation” as the Festival’s opening night show. And Pyramus and Thisbe will be reviving their hugely popular Holmes and Watson The Farewell Tour as a comic Sunday lunchtime treat.
Children and families will be spoilt for choice across the whole weekend with a mixture of free and ticketed events for all ages. Ripon Library will welcome back Hoglets Theatre with a twilight show for little ones. Children are invited to come dressed for bed and to enjoy a gentle bed-time adventure with The Sleep Pirates show. Story Craft Theatre from York also take over the library for an afternoon of crafty tales around the Heading into Space theme. Puppetry and theatre for families feature heavily on Festival Saturday with back-to-back entertainment both indoors and outdoors across the city. Skipton-based and internationally respected Lempen Puppet Theatre take part in an entire day of indoor and outdoor shows and workshops in the Arts Hub, Library and at pop-up open-air locations. Two more theatre companies with family-focused productions will be in residence in Ripon Spa Gardens for Festival Saturday – Badapple Theatre Company
present their charming Tales from the Great Wood soon followed by Strange Twig Theatre Company with Winnie and Warwick’s Magical Menagerie, a marvellously silly show complete with animatronic puppets. These shows sit alongside Punch and Judy puppet shows from Richmond-based Ron Wood and the day kicks off in Spa Gardens with an interactive Musical Bear Hunt for young children.
Theatre performances in fixed locations, indoors and outside are only half the fun on Festival Saturday. Festival Director Ian Holloway says “We are delighted that businesses, local councils and trusts have got behind the Festival to a degree that has enabled us to book a wide range of street theatre and “walkabout” acts, helping create a festival vibe throughout the day. Alongside unicyclists and stilt-walkers, you are bound to bump into some crazy characters and surprising sights such as medieval dragons, dry-land mermaids, an evil plant and some silly men hidden in gigantic flower-pots.” The range of professional street acts will be complemented by local community groups and musicians performing around the city streets and linking the three main Festival zones of Market Place, Spa Gardens and the Ripon Canal Basin.
Sunday events include pop-up dance theatre from Leeds-based ACCA ColLab to be performed in two café locations and the culmination of a Jubilee-themed living history project at the Ripon Workhouse Museum, before the Festival Finale at Fountains Abbey.
The Ripon Theatre Festival programme also includes pop-up indoor drama, spoken-word and illustrated talk events at the Curzon Cinema, The Little Ripon Bookshop and Ripon Library. There’s also a puppet-led family Trail Game around the city centre and on Saturday night, a community Revue of sketches and music from local writers and musicians. The Festival opens on Thursday morning, 23 June, with folk fables for grown-ups from “a unique force in storytelling”, Leeds-based Ursula Holden Gill.
Sponsorship and local support means that many Festival performances are free to watch and prices for ticketed shows have been kept low to encourage residents and visitors to attend multiple events across the weekend. Excitement about the Festival is beginning to build with community performers and volunteers signing up to be involved. Main sponsor, Wolseley released this statement from Finance Director, Mark Stibbards: “As Ripon’s largest employer, and a company with a long-standing heritage in the city, it fills us with great pride to be the main sponsor for this event. We’re always striving to have a positive impact on the communities in which we serve, and this is another great opportunity for us to do just that. The Festival is going to be a fantastic occasion and many of us here at Wolseley are really looking forward to it.”
Ripon Theatre Festival is organised by a team of community volunteers under its parent charity, The Ripon City Festival Trust. Valuable financial support has also been provided by the following: The Ripon BID, Specsavers, Ripon, Elstob & Elstob, MKM, F E Metcalfe along with North Yorkshire County Council, Ripon City Council and the Liz & Terry Bramall Foundation plus community groups such as Ripon Rowels Rotary Club, the Charity Pantomime Group and the Ripon Recycling Fund.