08.08.17

Why I bought a seat for the old lady at the top of our road

By Naomi Coleman

Volunteer

The other month my husband came home from work and announced he wanted to buy a seat for the Victorian theatre at Alexandra Palace.

‘Why do you want to do that?’ I asked, turning down the heat on the hob to stop the onions from burning.

‘I’ve seen posters on lamp posts in the park,’ he said. ‘If you donate £450 you get a plaque with your name on a seat in the theatre, plus a tour of the theatre before it’s restored.’

Victorian theatre as gracious as any West End Grand Dame

At this point I became interested. My husband scurried me away from frying pan to the Alexandra Palace website to show me images of a majestic theatre as gracious as any West End Grand Dame. I immediately felt a great tug towards this old building glimpsing a magnificent past beyond its faded façade.

I’d heard rumours there was a derelict Victorian theatre at Alexandra Palace, but didn’t know there were plans in place to restore it back to its former glory, although I had heard vague talk of lottery funding.

As we scanned the website, we learnt that this is part of a £27million restoration programme funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Haringey Council, with the final £1m to be raised through public donations.

Great connection to Ally Pally

I’ll admit I’m not a theatre buff or even go to many events at Alexandra Palace. But seven years of seeing Ally Pally majestically sat at the end of my road, huffing and puffing up its steep hills in an attempt to keep fit, and seeing my son climbing the old oaks of Alexandra Palace Park, I now realise I feel deeply connected to the place.

Our family name inscribed on a plaque

So that night we sponsored a seat for £450 to help raise £1 million – and requested our family name be inscribed on its plaque.

To put our mark on the theatre – a building that will endure way beyond my lifetime felt strangely moving. I’ve since discovered that the intention is for the building to showcase not only theatre, musicals, pantomime and even circus troupes, but also offered as free space to community choirs, local theatre groups and orchestral events.

Two months later we were invited on a tour of the theatre before works began. This gave a great insight into the planned restoration and made us excited about the range of activities that the theatre will bring to the local community – more on this on a separate post.

It’s a privilege living on top of this steep hill in North London and who knows; helping to give a new lease of life to the old lady at the top of the road may bring out the theatre buff in me yet.

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