9s: Rachel Auty – head of communications for the Harrogate Theatre, full time, volunteer editor of The Harrogate Review, founder of Women on Tap, she also has children.
43s: Who are you? I have pretty much lived in Harrogate all my life. I have been away for small amounts of time, like to uni and I have worked in Leeds. My mum’s family are from Harrogate and my nana is still going strong in Harrogate and she is in her 90s.
2mins 1s: Working in the Harrogate Theatre seems like the best job, and it’s a charity; do you realise how lucky you are? It’s a great job and a rare opportunity. I’ve been working here for 4 years. We’re a small team so you have to do a bit of everything there.
2mins 39s: Tell us about the structure of the Theatre. The building is owned by Harrogate Borough Council, the company is actually an independent arts charity.
3mins 25s: Surely most of your funding is from the arts council? We get a tiny amount of funding which represents less than 7% of our annual turnover. We are a receiving venue which means that a lot of the shows we have are touring shows. The deals vary show by show, but we only get about 20% of every ticket. Except for our pantomime which funds a lot of our other work.
5mins 3s: With most of the touring shows, you won’t be making any profit, you’ll just be breaking even? Absolutely. When we ask people for donations on top of ticket cost, it can be quite expensive, but that donation is worth much more to us than the ticket, especially as we can claim Gift Aid on it. When you see a show sold out, people think they must be doing well and getting a tidy profit but that’s not the case.
6mins 17s: How many people went to the pantomime in 2018? We are managing to increase panto every year. Last year to the end of January, we had just over 33,000. It’s an amazing time, everyone’s laughing and there’s loads of kids laughing. In a year, we sell just short of 150,000 tickets which includes some repeat customers.
7mins 31s: Are your shows just at the Harrogate Theatre? It’s a complex set up. The Harrogate Theatre events team also program events at the Royal Hall and the Convention Centre. Our space is limited, we have 500 seats in our auditorium, so we look at who it is doing the show and how many tickets we think it would sell
8mins 22s: When is the comedy festival? It’s been going 10 years and it happens every October. It’s growing every year, we previously had 10 shows and now we have 25 with solid names. We always have Jimmy Carr.
9mins 13s: Why do they come to Harrogate? I think the space is great, the auditorium is a really great place to have comedy.
9mins 51s: How many people do the halls hold? The Convention Centre holds 2,000, The Royal Hall is 1,000, the Theatre is 500. We have a studio space at the top of the Theatre and that seats about 60.
10mins 14s: How do people become a member? We are about to launch a new membership scheme at the theatre. It’s about offering money-can’t-buy perks and offering artistic experiences. We currently don’t offer pre-sales and as part of the membership we are going to have that. It will cost £30 for the basic membership for the year but there are other options as well which you can find on the website.
11mins 32s: Have you had any favourite acts or moments? For me it’s not about the big names, it’s about the really interesting work you get to see. It can be a brand new artist and they come to the staff team to say “come and see this, I’ve been working on it this morning”.
12mins 25s: Are there any quirky things that any of the celebrities have demanded to have in their room? I think someone once wanted loads of towels. Some people ask for loads of booze and others just want water and bananas. We had a comedian once demanding a straight banana.
13mins 37s: My daughter goes to the Youth Theatre on a Saturday but is the theatre really so important to Harrogate? We’ve got an estimated economic impact of £17 million but it’s more than that. The panto engages so many – thousands and thousands. It’s a tradition for many local families. We’re trying to get more and more young people engaged in the arts so they can understand the value to society as well. The building is full of quirks and it’s a treasure trove. If you look up and see the Grand Opera House at the top – what it used to be called – it’s fantastic.
15mins 34s: Is it haunted? Apparently, there’s a ghost called Alice who fell in love with a director, but it was unrequited, so she threw herself off the balcony. I’ve never seen her.
16mins 3s: You are the volunteer editor of The Harrogate Review, tell us about this. It’s out every 2 months. I know quite a lot of people and a lot of what goes on because of my job and because I’m local. It’s a cultural what’s on guide with some nice editorial content. It goes out into pubs and cafes. 5,000 are printed and distributed.
17mins 40s: You must be a massive fan of beer to found Women on Tap? It started as an idea as I was sat in a beer garden. I’ve always been a beer drinker and I thought about other women who like beer and I did some research and found there are many women brewing. It’s still considered to be a man’s drink and industry and I want to shift those thoughts. I thought of this in 2016 and in 2017 we teamed up with The Little Ale House. The owner, Rich, was up for supporting the idea and we held a festival over the weekend with women on the bar and had some tasting events. It was about people trying different flavours and the different beer styles. There is a beer for everyone!
19mins 39s: In 2018, you had a bigger festival? To do it again, we needed more money so we decided to crowd fund and we raised enough to run the festival. We worked with Major Toms, North Bar, Harrogate Brewing, Blind Jacks in Knaresborough, and we had a 5 day festival. We had women talking about their careers, food pairings, tasting events, etc.
20 mins 56s: Why do you think women need help when it comes to beer? The UK has the lowest percentage of beer drinkers in the world and this hasn’t changed in the past 10 years. There is research being done on this to find out why. Traditionally, it has been seen as a male thing and there’s still a lot of sexism and women feeling unwelcome in a pub.
22mins 11s: With the rise of women’s football, is this making a rise in beer drinking and women? It has become much more than that. It’s more of an up-market choice now and you can drink beer at a restaurant with fine foods. Women are attracted to trying beer more when it’s in good glassware. It’s about the experience as well.
23 mins 55s: Favourite bar? The Harrogate Tap – the team are great and the space is great. Blind Jacks in Knaresborough has the best beer seller around. A pint of cask there is as good as it gets. The Little Ale House is a great micro-pub.
24mins 22s: Favourite restaurant? Major Toms do incredible pizza and it goes great with beer.
24mins 48s: What are things that outsiders think about Harrogate that aren’t true? Most people think that it’s really posh and stuffy, quite straight-laced and it’s not. There’s great outdoor events, great festivals and creativity. Different pockets of community coming together over their passions. It goes much deeper than what people see on the surface.
26mins 0s: How do people contact you? I’m on Twitter @marketerrach
26mins 13s: Final words of wisdom? Get out there, do things, go to things, buy tickets, support causes you believe in and enjoy it.