Jen’s Lens ~ Through the keyhole and into the archives…

It has been a while since I last posted, and that is purely because I have been far too busy digging through old sets, props and costumes at The Courtyard’s archive store.

My reason for attending the building unit of productions past was also to have a nose at how the set is shaping up for our current show, The Jungle Book.

Firstly though, back to the old.  Whilst our amazing set builder Carl Davies and Jules ploughed on with designing pollen stems and village huts, and Les and Jenks of technical fame got to grips with some tropical leaves, I decided to take a trip down memory lane and see some of the old fantastic costumes and set that have been saved from their last appearance on stage.

Walking in to the archive store I was met with lots of old set, including part of the ship from our most recent pantomime, Dick Whittington.  I also saw Aladdin’s treasure chest buried among many tiger suits, and trucks and wheels and houses and wings a plenty.

The next room I uncovered was the room of all things hats and wigs and faces.  Many model heads sat with tiara’s placed amongst a head of princess hair.  Stetsons were sandwiched between sequinned turbans and Caribbean hats made purely of fruit.  It really was fantastic to see.  I even managed to swipe a rat’s tail, worn by none other than the 2012 panto baddy, King Rat for our circus workshops over Easter.

The many hats of The Courtyard

The many hats of The Courtyard

Once I was done trying on top hats and cane’s I decided to make my way upstairs and well, I HIT THE MOTHERLOAD.  Yes I did.  Because my friends, I found all the old costumes from pantos been and gone, as well as old costume bits and bobs recovered from The Courtyard’s community producing days.  The rail that first caught my attention was the rail of old Dame’s outfits, because it is fair to say that these are really the most outrageous costumes ever worn on stage.  I mean, it is perfectly normal to wear a dragon on your shoulder, and to also go on stage resembling a giant Battenburg when you are a Dame.  And I have a photo to prove it!

A dragon shoulder pad for a Dame!

A dragon shoulder pad for a Dame!

I then found tonnes of mice outfits, mini matadors and lots of sparkly shiny princess dresses.  All of my childish inhibitions came out in a tour de force as I examined red velvet ballgowns and Jasmine’s sequinned midriff tops and baggy trousers and thought about

Costumes and sequins a plenty

Costumes and sequins a plenty

sneaking some in my handbag to take home for the odd occasion that after a bad day I may need to dress like Rapunzel and let my hair down.  But rest assured, I resisted.

In the other room I was dumbfounded by rails and rails of shoes.  Yes SHOES ladies, and not just ordinary shoes either.  Gold shoes, tap shoes. Sparkly sandals, ballet pumps.  It was pretty much a walk in wardrobe or every woman’s dreams, just with more jazz. The amount of stuff we have in the store is very astounding, and for myself, as Courtyard Youth Theatre alumni, it was great to feel nostalgic and encounter things that allowed me to hark back to the days where I trod the boards and see that while they are no longer on the stage, they are not forgotten.

But now I must return to the exciting world of what is to come, and that being…The Jungle Book!  Seeing the set was amazing, and I really started to feel the jungle vibes by looking at vibrant jungle flowers and the remains of old Indian temples with ornate patterns.  The lush greens stood out.  What fascinated me the most though, was how these crafted set designers could build an entire set from basic materials.  It is extremely authentic, down to the very last leaf, and I will be very excited to see this on the stage amongst the very talented casts of children this Easter.

The set mid creation

The set mid creation

Don’t forget, the Jungle Book runs from 10 – 13 April, with performance times of 2pm and 7pm.


Jen’s Lens ~ Take 3: Panto Visit to Drybridge House Day Centre

Dick Whittington has been a pantomime like no other this year.  Special effects, a storming Muse number and also a fantastic cast of professional actors.

Fairy Bow Bells spreads some magic.

Fairy Bow Bells spreads some magic.

Today I went with a gang of the cast to Drybridge House Day Centre to spring a surprise meet and greet with the visitors.  Alice and Alderman Fitzwarren chatted to members of the day centre, whilst King Rat battled to keep his tail!

The day was a lovely outing for all involved, as all residents engaged with the Pantomime characters, and also got to know the real actors.  A few even tried to nab Fairy Bow Bell’s wings!

Joining myself and the actors, was The Courtyard’s newest recruit, our Arts and Older Peoples Officer.  Of the visit, Alice Saunders said: “The panto cast delighted residents and staff with fun conversation, costumes and jokes. Every single person in the room lit up as the cast individually introduced themselves. One lady, commented on how beautiful the costumes were made and began to retrace memories of previous pantomimes she had visited.

The visitors of the Drybridge House Day Centre with the cast

The visitors of the Drybridge House Day Centre with the cast

“Taking the panto out of the theatre allows the wider community to engage with the Courtyard’s panto fun, it’s wonderful as it can engage people of all ages –  whether you’re nine or 99.”

King Rat chats to the visitors, who only seemed interested in his tail!

King Rat chats to the visitors, who only seemed interested in his tail!

Many thanks go to Pat Jones and the staff at Drybridge House, who made the visit special and enjoyable for all.  We wish we could have stayed for lunch!

There is still time to catch Dick Whittington if you haven’t yet.  The show runs until the 6th January.  Catch our reviews here:

Review by The Stage

Review by The Hereford Times

‘Tis the season of giving… support charities this Christmas.

The Courtyard Christmas Appeal is in full swing with members of our panto audience choosing to give some very generous donations!

All proceeds from the Appeal, which will run during pantomime Dick Whittington will be split equally between Hereford City Mayor’s chosen charities – Hereford Haven and ROBOCAP – and The Courtyard.

Could you be a good fairy this Christmas?

Could you be a good fairy this Christmas?

ROBOCAP is a charity aimed at providing “Robotics Assisted Surgery” in the Three Shires of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and South Worcestershire, whose main purpose is to raise £1.6 million to purchase the ‘da Vinci’ robotic surgical system designed to improve the outcomes of, in the first instance, prostate cancer surgery.

Haven provide, completely free of charge, a wide range of therapies which help people to deal with the physical and emotional side effects of breast cancer. They lead the way in the field of integrated breast cancer support by offering an in-depth and individually tailored programme of care to people affected by breast cancer through their network of day centres.

“The Haven gave me a sanctuary where I could come and be calm. It was very comforting and calming –  a real lifeline.” ~ Lorna

There are many ways to give to these fantastic charities over the Christmas period. For more information go to

It’s not too late to book your panto tickets!

Get a programme free when you book tickets to come to Dick Whittington.

Download, print and bring this voucher with you.

“The Courtyard’s panto promises stunning costumes, an enchanting set and a better than ever cast with a fantastic live band” – HEREFORD JOURNAL

“Every panto needs a strong Dame and Tim McArthur is the mother of all panto dames, mixing slapstick comedy with painful puns and of course filthy one liners” – HEREFORD TIMES

Dick Whittington ad



Jen’s Lens ~ Take 2: BBC Midlands Today come and film panto!

A mid week morning during panto season here at The Courtyard was a rather special one this week.  Not only did the building have a sell out pantomime performance for schools but we were also paid a visit from BBC Midlands Today.

Dick Whittington cast giving it!

Dick Whittington cast giving it!

After filming some segments of the Panto, BBC presenter Satnam Rana then interviewed some children from Hereford’s Canon Pyon Primary School during the shows interval.  The children talked about why they liked the pantomime and why they enjoy coming with school to see it.  For many of the children it is in fact their first experience of panto and seeing a live performance.  As such, it means we here take huge pride in our Christmas offering being all about storytelling, so the kids can engage with real face-to-face performing arts, and enjoy stories from an alternate audio-visual platform.

After speaking to the primary school children, the TV crew then went backstage to interview our Learning, Participation and Programming Manager, Grant Brisland.  This meant they could also have a sneak preview of our impressive set and a look at what goes on behind-the-scenes during the show interval whilst talking to Grant about what panto means to us.

The piece goes out next week on BBC Midlands Today, and talks to many arts centres across the region about the tradition of Christmas pantomime.  I’ll be in touch with more details about the programme airing soon.

Win two tickets to Dick Whittington!

You could win two tickets to The Courtyard’s Pantomime, Dick Whittington on Saturday 29th or Sunday 30th December by simply answering the question below….

In the original story, where did Dick Whittington find himself shipwrecked?

To be in a chance of winning, simply send us your answers in a direct message on our Twitter or Facebook pages, or alternatively, email

Puss gets some heavy-handed smell reduction treatment

Dick Whittington is a traditional family pantomime that has the thoughts and heart of the community as its main focus.  With professional quality actors, a fantastic crew, and a hilarious dame, this year’s pantomime is not to be missed.  So come along and help Dick beat the baddies, win the girl and find his fortune in this family fun show that is bound to get you in the Christmas spirit.

The show runs from November 30 2012 – January 6 2013.  Note that this competition only offers tickets for performances on Saturday 29th or Sunday 30th December.

Hello to our new Chief Executive, Ian Archer!

As many of you will know, Martyn Green, the current Chief Executive, announced his departure from The Courtyard this July after 12 years of devotion and dedication. Martyn will finish at The Courtyard in January 2013 after the successful run of this year’s stellar pantomime, Dick Whittington.

Some exciting news to announce this festive season is that a new Chief Executive will be moving to Hereford to take up this position in spring 2013. We’re sure you’ll all join us in giving a huge welcome and many congratulations to Ian Archer.

Ian Archer, new Chief Executive

Ian Archer, new Chief Executive

Ian was born in the Wirral and is currently the Chief Executive at Hull Truck Theatre in Hull, heading up one of the country’s most prolific touring and producing companies. His previous positions included five years as Theatre Manager with Clwyd Theatre Cymru and 14 years as Marketing Director with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. We’re really excited to meet Ian properly and look forward to hearing all his plans for the Courtyard into our next chapter.

Ian Archer said:  “From what I have seen and know about The Courtyard it is an exciting and vibrant arts centre that has the community at its heart.  I am absolutely thrilled to be joining the organisation and am looking forward to taking up the position in March 2013.”

Roger Morgan, The Courtyard’s Chairman, said: “Martyn Green has been integral to the success of The Courtyard over the past 12 years, but I am confident that in Ian Archer we have found a successor who will take the arts in Herefordshire from strength to strength, bringing his knowledge and experience to the county”.

So here’s to a massive thank you to Martyn Green and a huge “Hello” to Ian, wishing them both the best.

If you haven’t yet booked your tickets to see the phenomenal Dick Whittington this year, then we’ve got a bit of an offer in store for you…. stay tuned for news by following us on Facebook or Twitter.