Russell T Davies and Denise Welch become patrons of Hope Mill Theatre

Joseph Houston and William Whelton at Hope Mill Theatre
Joseph Houston and William Whelton at Hope Mill Theatre

Hope Mill Theatre in Manchester is to move from private ownership to a registered charity with award-winning writer Russell T Davies and actress Denise Welch becoming patrons.

The critically-acclaimed theatre, which was founded by William Whelton and Joseph Houston from Macclesfield in 2015, is to begin operating as a charitable organisation from this month.

The charity – A Factory of Creativity – will take over the operating of the venue – which will continue to be called Hope Mill Theatre, with Whelton and Houston continuing in the roles of executive director and artistic director respectively.

A board of trustees, made up of individuals who have supported the venue since it opened, will help support and guide the charity as it moves forward.

Since opening its doors Hope Mill Theatre has won acclaim for its in-house productions, such as the musicals Parade, Hair, Yank!, Spring Awakening, Aspects of Love and Rags – many of which have transferred to London or on tour.

In-house dramas Proof and The Exonerated were also well-received by audiences. The theatre’s latest production, Mame, starring Tracie Bennett and Harriet Thorpe, opens this week in Manchester.

Hope Mill Theatre was named The Stage’s Fringe Theatre of the Year in 2018 and has been named a finalist in the ‘Outstanding Contribution’ category at the Manchester Culture Awards 2019.

In a joint statement, Whelton and Houston said: “Hope Mill Theatre was set up four years ago with a £10,000 start-up loan and has been operating since then as an independent business, receiving no funding.

“In a small amount of time we have grown rapidly and have struggled to keep up with the expectations and sheer demand of operating such a large endeavour.

“It has become increasingly hard to support the level of work that we produce in-house as well as supporting a thriving arts community locally.

“Hope Mill Theatre is now in a very crucial stage of its journey with many exciting opportunities, as well as an ever-evolving and developing local landscape.

“We, along with our small team, recognise the importance of having the venue expand, which will allow us to focus more on nurturing new work and supporting artists.

“It is our ambition to secure the venue’s home for many years to come and well as engaging more with our community and making our work accessible to varied audiences. We believe moving forward as a charity will allow us to achieve these ambitions.”

Writer Davies, famous for Doctor Who and Queer as Folk, and stage and screen actress Welch are to join Olivier Award-winning actress Tracie Bennett as a patrons of the theatre.

Davies said: “I’m thrilled and honoured to become a patron of Hope Mill Theatre. It’s an amazing place, and I’ve followed Joe and Will’s journey right from the start.

“Their productions are wonderful, and I love their support for new writers and talent.”

Hope Mill Theatre is now looking ahead to 2020 – its most ambitious year to date – with a number of in-house productions to be announced.