Royal Friends Newsletter July 2012

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Special Fundraising Shows Raise over $550,000
Work Begins ITR’s rebuild and restoration


It has been a while since I have written to you so there is quite a lot to tell… I’m delighted to say though, it is all good news and there will be even more good news announced next week once the details of our grant from Lottery Commission Heritage Fund are made public. So keep your eyes on the TV, in the papers and online, and your ears on the airwaves! Of course you can also check news on our website and also the ITR’s Facebook page.  If you LIKE us on Facebook before the end of July you can be in with the chance to win an autographed Ian McKellen tour programme from his recent “Shakespeare, Tolkien and You!” fundraising tour of NZ. Anyway, here’s the news…

Thank you, Sir Ian, Bret, Jemaine, Richard and Miriam!

Over $550,000 towards ITR’s recovery has been raised in the past 2 months through some very special fundraising shows by some extremely special people.

Sir Ian McKellenSir Ian McKellen performed to over 7000 people in sold out houses throughout New Zealand, including two very special shows in Christchurch, during May and June, raising over
$3Miriam Margoyles50,000 from ticket sales, programme sales and donations.

Earlier in May, British actress Miriam Margolyes, with support from John Martin, performed an intimate fundraiser at Christ’s College Old Boys’ Theatre raising $10,500.

Last monFlight of the Conchordsth’s Christchurch performance by the world famous Flight of the Conchords at CBS Arena is estimated to have raised a further $120,000.

Add to this a recent personal donation from actoRichard O'Brienr and Rocky Horror Show creator Richard O’Brien, the total raised through these special fundraisers now totals over $550,000.

All of us at ITR are absolutely overwhelmed by their amazing generosity and commitment to the recovery of our damaged Old Lady. To Sir Ian, Bret, Jemaine, Richard, Miriam and John – our heartfelt thanks and appreciation.

Sir Ian’s 15 date tour through 11 different NZ centres, north and south, started on 5th May in Stratford and finished on Sunday 24th June in Carterton. But the penultimate sold out show at Wellington’s Opera House was the most memorable with various cast members from The Hobbit including Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Billy Connolly, James Nesbitt, Ken Stott, Mark Hadlow and Aidan Turner in the audience and later joining Sir Ian on stage for the encore helping to gather more than $10,500 in public donations from the collection buckets alone… Sir Peter Jackson also joined in the collection festivities, signing autographs and gathering donations. Publicity on the tour saw ITR feature around the world in the media including The Wall Street Journal (US), The Daily Express and The Radio Times (UK) and Sydney Morning Herald (AUS), amongst many others! Isaac Theatre Royal’s fundraising efforts are undoubtedly on the World Stage now. Special thanks must also go to ASB Bank and Air New Zealand for their sponsorship support.

The Bards Box at Isaac Theatre RoyalSir Ian’s contribution especially, will never be forgotten in Christchurch, so in special recognition of his overwhelming personal commitment and generosity the Board and Management of ITR have announced that one of the two Royal boxes at the restored Isaac Theatre Royal (known as “The Bard’s Box” for its bust of William Shakespeare), will become the ‘Ian McKellen Royal Suite’.

Sir Ian said, “It’s been a very special two months and it’s been my great pleasure to do something to help the Isaac Theatre Royal. The theatre is one of the few historic buildings in Christchurch to survive the earthquakes and it is wonderful to know it can be rebuilt and serve as a beacon for Canterbury people”.


The Restoration Begins…

The programme of works to rebuild the ITR finally began at 6.00am on Monday 2 July when contractors Naylor Love prepared to lower the historic ceiling dome into the stripped-out auditorium to signal the start of a repair and enhancement project that will span 18 months and cost approximately $28million, funded largely by our insurance with Vero. The original and spectacular heritage ceiling dome is famous for its Italianate painting of scenes from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and was painted by G.C. Post of the Carrara Ceiling Company of Wellington. It has been a unique highlight of the Theatre Royal’s interior since it opened in February 1908. The Dome now sits in the stage area where it will be flown, suspended and restored onsite.

The Dome resting on the stage

There is some fascinating time-delayed filmed coverage of the Dome removal on our website.

Fundraising continues in earnest to raise the remainder of the $5-6million estimated shortfall. $1M has been granted from the Government’s Christchurch Earthquake Appeal Trust (CEAT) and the addition of the $550,000 from the stars of stage and screen has boosted the fundraising drive enormously, plus various other generous grants and donations including ASB Bank, Arts Access Aotearoa and Dame Malvina Major Foundation. With applications till pending with NZ Lottery Commission Heritage and Environment Fund, The Canterbury Community Trust, The Christchurch City Council Mayoral Fund, Mainland Foundation and Rotary Club and various others the target to complete the programme is beginning to look a lot less daunting! If you know anyone who is interested to assist the restoration fundraising drive through a personal donation please direct them to our website, or to our mailing address – PO Box 13473, Christchurch 8141.

The full repair programme will see the theatre open in a ‘transitional’ format in July 2013 for three months before closing again completely between October 2013 and April 2014 when our Grand Old Lady will finally reopen again in her full restored and upgraded glory. Plans for the enhancements and the transitional format will be unveiled soon. It is a major restoration, involving some extensive deconstruction over the next 2-3 months before the rebuilding can commence.

To see the Theatre for the final time in its current state, there will be a public open day through Gloucester Street on Sunday 15th July. The road will be open to the public but closed to traffic, so please come down and pay your respects to the Grand Old Lady of Christchurch Theatre, bring your cameras and a little bit of loose change! The donation buckets will be out.


Hope you are keeping warm this winter. Hopefully we will see you in Gloucester Street on Sunday and if not we will see you back at the ITR next year. Thanks for your continued support and good wishes.




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