Renowned actors and playwrights become patrons of Northern Broadsides

Northern Broadsides' production of King Lear �NOBBY CLARK.
Northern Broadsides' production of King Lear �NOBBY CLARK.

Halifax theatre company Northern Broadsides has announced that a host of renowned actors and playwrights are to become patrons.

Sir Lenny Henry CBE, Sir Tom Courtenay, Stephanie Cole OBE, Meera Syal CBE, Sanjeev Bhaskar OBE and playwrights Mike Poulton and Blake Morrison will be joining the award-winning company, which is based at Dean Clough Mills.

Barrie Rutter, Northern Broadsides artistic director, said: “Most are famous, all are respected, some are learned, a couple write music and a couple write words and between them there is plenty of “fruit salad” - Knighthoods, OBE’s, CBEs - but overall there is the shared passion and support for the work of Northern Broadsides.

“They provide the voice of encouragement for Northern Broadsides to maintain our high standards, relish our audiences and play our part in the rich theatrical network.

“We are absolutely thrilled to welcome this distinguished list of new patrons. Their profile and commitment to theatre and communities will help enhance the reputation of Northern Broadsides as one of the country’s leading theatre companies”

Sir Lenny Henry CBE, who appeared in the title role in Northern Broadsides’ award winning production of Othello and who will be starring in the final series of Broadchurch on ITV 1, said: “Without Broadsides, my life would not have transformed.

“Without Broadsides I would not have taken on one of the greatest tragedies known to man - Othello by William Shakespeare. It completely changed my life and turned my career around.

“More importantly the whole experience gave me colleagues and a frame of reference for acting and performing that have stayed with me ever since.”

Like Barrie Rutter, Sir Tom Courtenay was born in Hull.

His first film, ‘The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’ was released in 1962. He received Oscar nominations for the films Doctor Zhivago and The Dresser and most recently appeared in films ‘Quartet’ ‘Forty-five Years’ ‘Dad’s Army’ and the ITV series ‘Unforgotten’.

Actress Stephanie Cole OBE, who is best known for appearing in the hit television series Waiting for God, Coronation Street, Open all Hours, Doc Martin and currently the Channel 4 comedy Man Down said: “I’ve seen many shows by Northern Broadsides over the years in many surprising and unusual and imaginative venues and have always been excited by their work and been inspired by them.

“May they have many more years thrilling audiences and introducing so many to theatre.”

Actress, playwright, screenwriter and novelist Meera Syal CBE, whose recent television appearances include the second series of Broadchurch and the award winning BBC series Goodness Gracious Me and the Kumars at number 42 said about the company: “I’m delighted to support this dynamic front footed company led by the imitable Barrie Rutter. Having spent too many years growing up thinking theatre wasn’t for the likes of me, it’s a joy to champion Northern Broadsides who make theatre accessible and exhilarating for all.”

Syal’s husband Sanjeev Bhaskar OBE, who is also best known for the much loved television series Goodness Gracious Me and The Kumars at Number 42, and who appeared last year appeared alongside Tom Courtney and Nicola Walker in the hit ITV series Unforgotten will also become a Patron of Northern Broadsides.

Playwright Mike Poulton, who adapted The Canterbury Tales for Northern Broadsides in 2010 and who in 2014 adapted the award winning Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies for the Royal Shakespeare Company added: “More than a quarter of a century ago Barrie Rutter showed us that Shakespeare delivered passionately, and flavoured with strong Yorkshire accents could captivate all parts of the nation - and indeed other nations.

“And that a good actor who takes pains to understand, and trust his playwright is worth more than a multitude of effects and gimmicks, the imposed concepts of crack-pot directors, or expensive sets and frocks. And he’s still at it. Long may it continue.”

Playwright, novelist and poet Blake Morrison who has adapted several plays for Northern Broadsides, including The Cracked Pot, Lisa’s Sex Strike and We Are Three Sisters, said the company had made a huge difference to his career and he was delighted to support it.

Also joining as patrons will be former Northern Broadsides Chair RT Hon Lord Shutt of Greetland OBE, FCA; singer and broadcaster Mike Harding; Edith Hall, Professor of Classics at King’s College London and Co-Founder of the Archive of Performances of Greek and Roman Drama at Oxford University and Halifax entrepreneur and former Northern Broadsides board member Roger Harvey OBE.

All of the above new patrons will join Lady Patricia, Countess of Harewood who has been the company’s patron for the last twenty years.

From September 9 to 24, Northern Broadsides will revive J.B. Priestley’s comedy When We Are Married at York Theatre Royal (who will be co-producing the production) and then tour the production until December.