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Theatres in the South West celebrate winning prestigious UK Theatre Awards

  • Date: 24 October 2013
  • Area: South West
Open door looking through to theatre

The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter. Credit: Rob Darch

Theatres in the South West won three prestigious UK Theatre Awards, presented on 20 October at London's Guildhall.

Blanche McIntyre claimed Best Director for The Seagull, a Headlong and Nuffield Theatre production in association with Derby Theatre. The Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter was recognised as UK's Most Welcoming Theatre and Brenda Walliss of Princess Theatre in Torquay was awarded Theatre Employee/Manager of the Year.

The UK Theatre Awards, given by the Theatrical Management Association (TMA), are the only awards which specifically address theatre throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, rather than focusing on London and the West End. Open to TMA members working in both the commercial and subsidised sectors of the performing arts, the awards honour creative excellence and outstanding achievement on and off the stage.

Acclaimed 'rising star' Blanche McIntyre is Associate Director at Nuffield Theatre, an Arts Council England National portfolio organisation based in Southampton. In 2012 McIntyre was the winner of the Critics' Circle Award for Most Promising Newcomer and the Off West End Theatre Award for Best Director.

Bike Shed theatre is a 60-seat venue based in Exeter. The theatre has received a total of over £123,000 Arts Council England National Lottery-funded Grants for the arts awards over the last few years. The venue won the category UK's Most Welcoming Theatre, which attracted more than 225 nominations. The award  was open for the first time to any professional theatre offering legal, fair terms to all performers and stage management staff, in line with or better than the Equity Fringe Agreement.

Brenda Walliss has been front of house manager at the Princess Theatre in Torquay for more than 50 years. She revealed that she has not taken one day off work during that time and has watched her staff mature from teenagers to parents. Speaking at the awards, Brenda said, 'I'm over the moon and can't believe that something I enjoy doing so much has been recognised in such a lovely way.'

David Lockwood, Director of Bike Shed Theatre says: 'When Fin and I opened the Bike Shed in 2010, we both believed that the experience of an audience member goes beyond what they see on stage. We put great emphasis on the atmosphere in the bar, the quality of the food and drinks and, most importantly, the welcome of the staff. So this award feels like a vindication of something we felt was inherent in an evening out, and something so sadly missing in many other cultural venues. It's great to have won this prestigious national award and I'm proud of all that the team here are doing to put Exeter on the cultural map.'

Sam Hodges, Creative and Executive Director, Nuffield Theatre says: 'I am delighted that Blanche McIntyre's undoubted talent has been recognised in this way and better still with a Nuffield production. As one of my new Associates, I am pleased that she has chosen to direct two plays in my first season, starting with The Nutcracker this Christmas and later next year all nine of Noel Coward's plays in Tonight at 8.30, in our co-production with English Touring Theatre.'

ATG's (Princess Theatre) Joint Chief Executive Officer, Rosemary Squire says: 'I'm absolutely delighted that Brenda has won the UK Theatre Award for Theatre Employee/Manager of the Year. Brenda is one of our longest serving employees with an extraordinary 51 years service and this award and recognition is thoroughly deserved. Many congratulations to Brenda and all the team in Torquay!'

Phil Hindson, Theatre Relationship Manager, South West, Arts Council England says, 'It's great to see the South West's vibrant theatre sector recognised in this year's UK Theatre awards with many of our theatres and their creative teams either shortlisted or winning awards. Theatre has an incredible power to create unique and inspiring experiences for audiences, as well as draw in audiences from near and afar and help generate income for our local towns and cities. Congratulations to all the shortlisted nominees and Nuffield associate artist Blanche McIntyre, Princess Theatre employee Brenda Walliss and Bike Shed Theatre for each scooping up an award!'

Other South West organisations also shortlisted for the awards included Drum Theatre Plymouth, Theatre Royal Bath and Theatre Royal Plymouth.

For more information on:
The awards, Nuffield Theatre, Bike Shed Theatre, Princess Theatre