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Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds welcomes new boss as reopening appeal passes halfway point

A theatre welcomed its new boss this week as an emergency appeal to help it reopen and survive the coronavirus crisis passed the halfway point.

Owen Calvert-Lyons said he is ‘delighted’ to be leading Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds into a new chapter as its new chief executive and artistic director, despite it being a ‘complex time to take over’.

The Westgate Street venue has been closed since March and is in the midst of a £50,000 emergency reopening appeal, which had already raised more than £32,000 yesterday.

Owen Calvert-Lyons is the new artistic director/CEO of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Picture by Mark Westley
Owen Calvert-Lyons is the new artistic director/CEO of Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Picture by Mark Westley

Mr Calvert-Lyons, who was head of theatre and artist development at London’s Ovalhouse, said: “It’s wonderful to be leading a theatre which is so loved by its community. I want to give a personal thanks to everyone who has donated to our campaign so far. I hope that I get the opportunity to welcome you through our doors soon.”

He already has plans to expand the theatre’s ‘life-changing’ community work with the launch of a new project ‘Walking Stories’.

Through audio-guided walks, it will tell the positive stories to emerge from the pandemic with residents in Bury St Edmunds and surrounding villages encouraged to create works of art in their streets with the help of theatre professionals.

Mr Calvert-Lyons said: “It is important to me that we begin with something optimistic.

“Our lives have been transformed by the effects of Covid-19, but there have been silver-linings which gives us something positive to focus on. Communities have rallied round to support each other. People have volunteered to help those most in need.”

He has previously created audio-guided, citizen-led story walks through Cape Town, Karachi, London and Melbourne and worked with 20 ten-year-olds to design and build a temporary theatre in Brixton.

Mr Calvert-Lyons highlighted the theatre’s community programmes which has included work with Bury St Edmunds Women’s Aid Centre, Bury Drop-In, Recovery’s Got Talent, Age UK and The Befriending Scheme.

“If we can reach our target, we can ensure that even more people feel the benefit of this life-changing work,” he said.

Roger Quince, board of trustees chairman, added: “I am confident that Owen’s background and experience will help Theatre Royal to emerge stronger and more resilient by having weathered this storm.”

To donate, visit www.theatreroyal.org

Walking Stories will be inviting applications in the next few weeks.

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