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Stamford Shakespeare – a million tickets!

The Stamford Shakespeare Company is celebrating a momentous year. Not only is it the 50th anniversary of the Company, which began life at Stamford’s George Hotel in 1968, but a staggering million tickets have been sold since performances began at Tolethorpe Hall in 1977

A huge amount of work goes in to make each year the success it is and the Company is indebted to more than a hundred volunteers who give of their time, energy and expertise to help maintain the high standards. As well as this army of volunteers there are three paid members of staff at Tolethorpe Hall – the Administrator, who works part time, and two who work full time – the Estate and Marketing Managers.

The former of these is Nick Hayter, and his role encompasses a wide variety of responsibilities, assisting every department. Nick first worked at Tolethorpe 25 years ago when he was an apprentice for a local electrical company who were the contractors for the Stamford Shakespeare Company. Nick helped with work at the Hall on and off for three years as he completed his apprenticeship. A decade later, in 2006, Nick, by then a self-employed electrician, became the electrical contractor for the Company and would be called in as and when any work was required.

Eight years later he was taken on full time under the new title of Estate Manager and began his yearly duty overseeing the enormous task of looking after the house and grounds. Aside from handling all the electrical work at Tolethorpe Nick’s job entails a diverse range of tasks. High on the list is all the gardening, with the grass cutting and pruning alone comprising many weeks of work. Other responsibilities include maintenance, waste management, recycling, wildlife conservation and cleaning the theatre canopy and auditorium.

A crucial role Nick undertakes is the set moving. From early May the sets for the three productions are continually shifted around, so that each cast has time to rehearse on their own set on the main stage. The sets are so large (occasionally they have to be built on steel girder frames and can weigh up to three tonnes) and space is so tight, that each set move takes between 6 to 12 hours. Nick and the set moving team (which usually consists of only three or four people) continue to shift the sets throughout the summer and through to the end of the season.

Once the season closes, Nick’s final setrelated job for the year is to carry out the demolition of all three structures. Sadly, the huge wooden constructions are usually rather weather beaten by the end of the season, but what can be salvaged is recycled for use elsewhere. Nick can often be seen travelling around the seven acre site on an old (and rather unreliable) tractor, which has certainly seen better days, but proves a very handy means of transporting heavy loads around the site.

The tractor dates back to 1972 and was discovered in a shed in the grounds when the Company bought the Hall in 1977. Nick says “It’s a real privilege to work here in such beautiful surroundings. I feel very lucky to be part of such a fantastic team of people, almost entirely made up of volunteers, who have such a passion for what they do, and do it so incredibly well.”

● The booking line is now open for this summer’s season of plays: The Merchant of Venice The Merry Wives of Windsor The School for Scandal ● Box office: 01780 756133 ● For more information and to book online: www.stamfordshakespeare.co.uk

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