SIR: In response to Mr Webb’s letter (July 23), Play to the Crowd is the arts and education charity that runs Theatre Royal Winchester and Hat Fair and Playmakers - an extensive community engagement and learning programme. We’ve launched our Survival Appeal because of the devastating effects that Covid-19 has had on the whole charity.

Theatre Royal Winchester’s intimate auditorium is an absolute treasure. Its size is exactly why it is so loved by audiences and performers alike, including some of the biggest names in entertainment.

But it’s not just the big names - Play to the Crowd nurtures, develops and mentors young performers, technicians and producers; provides a stage for our community and supports companies to develop new work.

We receive some investment from Arts Council England, Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council - but this is not to ‘prop up’ the theatre – it’s an investment in our community, creating a better place to live, work and play. In 2019/20 we programmed 300+ FREE performances enjoyed by 90,000+ at Hat Fair; entertained 70,000+ at the theatre; worked with 10,000+ local school pupils through workshops, visits and careers support; and gave 2,500+ community performers, emerging and established artists access to our theatre. Plus we attracted £1 million+ in additional visitor spend for Winchester. A pretty good Return on Investment!

We generate 80 per cent of our income ourselves. Since March, this has gone and we have no clarity from government when we may re-open without social distancing (whilst in place it is not economically viable for most theatres to re-open).

I urge Mr Webb to look at the comments on our Crowdfunding page ( ) to understand our value to local people and invite him to meet so I can highlight the impact we make to our city; the UK’s cultural landscape; the true diversity of our audience and the benefits that live performance and participation has on people’s wellbeing. Arts charities are much more than what you see on the stage. The size of the auditorium is less important than the heritage of the building and the impact of the activities.

Deryck Newland,

Chief Executive,

Play to the Crowd,

Theatre Royal,

Jewry Street,


SIR: I’m delighted to find that Keith Webb favours adding a multi-use facility primarily for music to Winchester’s amenities, although I would suggest something a little smaller than he hints at, given that Basingstoke’s excellent Anvil is not far away (Chronicle, Letters, July 23).

It’s good to know we share at least one enthusiasm, since we part company on the matter of the Theatre Royal, which I think is of central importance to the social, cultural and economic health of the district and its citizens and therefore a deserving object of public money. I calculate that the 118,000 citizens of Winchester each contribute £1.57 a year from their council tax, and for that the theatre, in a normal year, brightens the lives of some 140,000 people and generates £2.1million for the economy. Government, local and national, in most of the world supports its theatres financially, a principle that was properly established in the UK during World War ll.

It is ungenerous of Mr Webb to attack the Theatre Royal at this time, when so much has been done by the current management to put the theatre on a sound footing only for Covid-19 to put it all at risk. If the Theatre Royal goes under it will be a great loss to Winchester and particularly for people who are not “well placed to visit Southampton and London theatres”.

Richard York,

Alison Way,