31 October 23

Queen’s Hall celebrates 40th anniversary and looks ahead to the next 40 years


On 31 October 2023, Queen’s Hall celebrates its 40th anniversary. Having been a dance hall, a cinema and latterly a bingo hall, in 1975 the building was jointly purchased by Northumberland County Council and Tynedale District Council for development and opened as an arts centre in 1983. Years of restoration and renovation have resulted in a venue fit for the 21st Century, with improved accessibility, spacious rooms and gallery spaces, and a fully restored and re-seated main theatre as well as a state-of-the-art studio theatre.

Last year, Queen’s Hall Arts programmed 387 live performances, talks and workshops, attracting over 32,000 people through ticket sales alone. So far this year, 69,856 people have engaged in 593 performances, workshops and creative activities. Outside of this, QHA also leads on a programme of events and projects in collaboration with local communities including Festival of Flame, Hexham Lantern Parade, Animating Hexham and Illuminated Sheep.

Artistic Director Katy Taylor explains, “Queen’s Hall is an organisation that reaches far beyond our building. As a registered charity, our mission is to be the creative heart of the community - we co-produce and commission new work, we collaborate with partners locally, regionally and nationally, including the Hexham Culture Network, and we connect with young people, older people and everyone in between. I want to thank our fantastic staff team, freelancers, volunteers and our wonderful community, who are the reason we’re still here after 40 years.

Rachel Adam, Chair of the Board of Trustees says, “The impact on people’s lives over 40 years is incredible. There are so many stories including memories of coming to events with families and friends, experiences of performing on stage or having work presented in the gallery, work with schools and community partners that is often transformative, and opportunities for artists, freelancers and companies to make and tour new work. For 40 years, Queen’s Hall Arts has provided enjoyment and inspiration, opened up new opportunities, increased confidence, aspiration, wellbeing and pride - we look forward to the next 40!

Recent projects include Find Festival - attended by more than 2,000 people, it was run by 12-16 year olds from the Key Change Northumberland project to provide hands-on experience for young people to work on live events. Beneath Our Feet was an ambitious project working with 13 local schools to unearth stories about local mining heritage; a free exhibition of the artwork co-created with artists, pupils and teachers is at the Queen’s Hall gallery until 11 November. During lockdown, Unsung Heroes celebrated people who had helped in their the local community, with music by North East singer-songwriter Bridie Jackson performed by local musicians available as a pop up gig through an interactive app. And this summer, Queen’s Hall Arts led on the first ever Hexham Pride - a month of inclusive and accessible events shaped by local residents celebrating LGBTQIA+ culture, with an emphasis on family activities, local performers and groups.

Queen’s Hall Youth Theatre provides an inclusive place for young people aged 8-18 to come together and explore their creativity. Addison Keen joined aged 12 and now facilitates sessions for other young people. He explains, “I first got involved through a Hexham Book Festival collaboration, when director Susan Betts came into our school. We developed a piece together which we performed on the Queen’s Hall main stage. Taking part took me out of my introverted self, and gave me the confidence to put myself forward for auditions; I’ve since acted in TV and film as well as in theatre productions.” Addison’s background in youth theatre has helped him to carve out a career path in the creative industries, including studying film practice at Newcastle University, facilitating youth theatre sessions and doing work experience with the technical team. He joined the Queen’s Hall Board as a young trustee in December 2022, “I love the idea of giving something back to the company that helped to make me who I am today. It’s been fantastic to see the evolution of the Queen’s Hall.

Queen’s Hall Youth Theatre Director Susan Betts adds, “Now, more than ever, it’s important to give young people opportunities and space to play and be part of something creative, so we’ll be doing a big show in March that brings together our four youth theatre groups to celebrate 40 years of Queen’s Hall - watch this space!

Looking ahead, the Christmas programme has something for everyone including a brand-new production of Snow White co-created with Alnwick Playhouse as well as A Jazzy Christmas with Paul Edis and Friends, Core Music House Band’s Christmas Special, and legendary North East comedy improv group The Suggestibles. In January, following a successful pilot in 2021, Animating Hexham returns with an exciting artist commission to celebrate the town’s history and heritage. Last year 280,000 people engaged with Illuminated Sheep in Northumberland, and in November the flock goes out on tour including Bradford Light Festival and Alnwick Gardens Winter Festival, funded by Northumberland County Council and North of Tyne Combined Authority. Now in its third year, the Hexham Lantern Parade invites people to come together outside after dark to celebrate community, music and light on 17 November, with free lantern making workshops before the event.

To safeguard the venue’s long-term future, Queen’s Hall Arts now needs to raise £65,000 for essential repairs to the Fly Tower. Directly above the main stage, it plays a vital role in ensuring exciting productions from across the UK can come to Hexham, as well as providing a space for local artists to showcase their work.

For more information or to make a donation to the Roof Fund to help secure the future of Queen’s Hall, visit this page.

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