Charity behind Theatre Royal Winchester and Hat Fair needs £225,000 to survive

Charity behind Theatre Royal Winchester and Hat Fair needs £225,000 to survive

by Sally Churchward.

The arts and education charity, Play to the Crowd which runs Theatre Royal Winchester, Hat Fair and Playmakers, has today announced that it needs to raise £225,000 by the end of September in order to survive beyond the Covid crisis. 

The news comes the day after it was announced that Nuffield Southampton Theatres is to permanently close, after it went into administration in May and a suitable buyer could not be found. And with 86 jobs lost across the NST sites, jobs are now at risk at the Winchester charity.

Deryck Newland, chief executive, said: ‘“Since Theatre Royal Winchester was forced to close on 16 March, overnight we lost 80% of our income from ticket and bar sales. This is financially devastating us. Despite taking significant measures and difficult decisions to safeguard the charity we now need our community’s help.

“Today, on what would have been the first day of Hat Fair, we have launched our Survival Fundraising Appeal and urge those within our community who are able to, to donate without delay to help us be there beyond this crisis. 

“As yet we do not have any guidelines from the UK government as to when live performance or events can return. This is making it impossible to know when we can start planning and programming. 

“With no source of income, no indication as to when we may be able to re-open, reduced audiences due to social distancing, and the imminent changes to the Job Retention scheme from August and end to the scheme in October, we are also now having to make tough decisions about reducing our staffing cost base. So it is with great sadness and a heavy heart that we are currently undergoing restructuring consultations with our team. 

“We are absolutely determined to survive this – the small team that are currently working, together with our extremely committed board of trustees, are exploring every avenue to get us through this. 

“Live performance and creative participation are absolutely vital to so many people’s well-being and positive mental health and beyond this crisis as a society we will need these activities more than ever. 

Help us be there for our community by making a donation or spreading the word about our appeal.  For anyone who has purchased tickets for future shows you can rest assured that your money is safe and should the event get cancelled then you will always be offered a full refund.

“We look forward to being able to present shows again in the theatre, restart all our community engagement work and bring a super special Hat Fair to you in 2021. Together we can save live professional performance for Winchester.”

Play to the Crowd have cancelled this year’s Hat Fair Outdoor Arts festival, Playmakers activities and all live events at Theatre Royal Winchester until 31 August 2020 currently. 


To make a donation go to or call Theatre Royal Winchester’s Box Office on 01962 840 440. For further information contact Becca Moore, Fundraising Manager on

  • Picture: Hat Hair Performer, by Adrienne Photography