Derek Aldridge is Theatre Director for Swindon’s Wyvern Theatre & Arts Centre, having joined the team in 2009. After a record-breaking year in 2015 Derek looks forward at the exciting year to come…
So Derek, as the Theatre Director for the Wyvern Theatre and Swindon Arts Centre you know the venues inside-out. How would you describe them to someone that has never visited before?
Brilliant question. I would say they are theatres that present the widest possible range of high quality live entertainment. I’d also say that they are buildings that are well-used and well-loved by the local communities. And lastly, they provide a very warm welcome to newcomers and regulars alike…..so come on in.
What’s your favourite thing about being Theatre Director here in Swindon?
I love the fact that I get to be involved in re-shaping people’s experiences of Swindon – that might be someone who has lived here for years who discovers a play here that they love, or it could be the theatre producer who did not have Swindon on their radar previously. It is such a privilege to be able to construct the programme of entertainment and try to provide something to suit every taste.
How have Swindon Theatres changed since you first started?
Most obviously, we weren’t Swindon Theatres when I arrived. The Arts Centre (which is such a gem of a venue) only came under our management in April 2014. When I arrived in June 2009 the Wyvern had only been back open for two years, following its closure for one year for refurbishment. Critically we are busier than ever, have more enquiries from local users than ever before and I hope we are more inclusive. I also think as a business we are more focussed on delivering great customer experiences and responding to our customers needs than ever before.
What are some of your personal Swindon Theatre highlights so far?
There are many. Every Christmas sitting in the auditorium at a full performance of our magical pantomime and seeing the next generation of theatregoers come in and realise how special and unique a trip to the theatre is as an experience. Also seeing iconic productions such as The Mousetrap, Journeys End, Blood Brothers coming to Swindon for the first time. Most of all, seeing our local talent shine on stage – the Summer Youth Project at the Wyvern is the moment of the year I am proudest of, as 200 young people put on a full musical in just two weeks. On a lighter note, I loved it when, during a very busy run where all performances were sold out someone who couldn’t get a ticket complained to me “How do you expect to be successful if you are always sold out?”
How do you see Swindon Theatres developing over the next year?
Continuing to grow our audience figures, continuing to develop the quality and breadth of our productions. Continuing to surprise people with the programme and to continue to hear people say they have had a wonderful time visiting the venues.
Finally, any New Year’s resolutions?
Oh yes, all the usuals – stop eating chocolate, cakes and crisps. Run more, walk more, worry less. The first week of January is one of my favourite times of year – the theatre’s will hopefully be celebrating record-breaking Christmas’ and calming down for a few weeks, the possibilities for the future seem endless and resolutions seem possible to keep. By about the 16th I’ve normally come to terms with my lack of willpower!