The Joseph Rowntree Theatre is a venue in York that is operated by the community for the community.
With 362 seats, they accommodate a wide range of productions throughout the year.
We spoke with Graham Mitchell, their Company Secretary and Fundraising and Events Director, to find out more about the theatre and its mission, and to understand why they decided to apply for the Prosper North business support programme.   

Can you tell us a bit more about your organisation and your mission?
Joseph Rowntree Theatre was built by the Rowntree family for the benefit of their employees & their families and the York community at large. The Quaker ethos of enlightened employment and social welfare was key in the building of this unique 1930s theatre. Nowadays the theatre is the only building in the Rowntree Conservation Area still being used for its original purpose, with factories being converted to apartments and housing over the next 2 – 3 years.

The charity that manages and runs the theatre for the benefit of the community was established in 2003 and over the years trustees have gradually improved it culminating in 2017 being able to fund the purchase of the freehold from its owners.
We now plan to widen the scope of our activities and improve facilities to modern day standards by building a large extension that will incorporate much better access for all users, better social spaces for community use and enable us to fulfil the mission of being a vibrant community hub in a low wage area.
The theatre is unique in having no employees, the trustees are all active managers responsible for their own specific portfolio (building management, volunteer management, technical services, box office, etc.) and they are assisted by around 170 volunteers who help us to  stage around 140 performances of different types throughout the year, manage the building and grounds, as well as marketing, public relations, heritage and fundraising.. The building is in use for over 40 weeks in each year.

What appeals to you / your organisation about the Prosper North programme?
Its timing! We are at the early stages of forming a fundraising strategy for capital spending in the order of £3.5 – 4m and adapting business plans to enable not only the project but ongoing sustainability for years to come.

What do you hope Prosper North can help you with?
It already has helped via the Business Planning workshop in Bury and by introducing us to our very own business adviser, Marc Collett. These interventions have helped to concentrate minds and give fresh impetus. Networking also gave encouragement and learning.

What is the content of the programme you find the most useful?
Marc Collett and the Business Planning workshops without doubt. A key learning has been to be able to demonstrate statistically the progress the charity has made over the years to date and setting milestones on the way to achieving our goals.

Find out more about Prosper and apply for one of the next editions here