profiles - a light-hearted look at industry personalities
No. 17 in a continuing series
Technical Director and Theatre Consultant
David Wilmore is that unlikely combination: a theatre consultant who still works operationally within the theatre industry. As technical director at the Harrogate International Centre he has, along with his ‘Band of Technicians', developed an enviable reputation that combined high quality in-house technical facilities with the ability to design, create and deliver top-class production management facilities to their many blue-chip clients. Last year Harrogate opened its new flagship ‘Exhibition Hall M' and has now turned it's attention to the restoration of the magnificent Royal Hall built in 1903 by that masterly theatre architect Frank Matcham. Current proposals envisage a full restoration approaching £12million, and this is where David combines both operational experience, as well as his passion and knowledge for historic theatres.
Originally trained as a ‘rock-basher' (aka geologist) at Newcastle University, he went on to study drama, followed by a three month opportunity (which turned into three years) to restore the nineteenth century stage machinery at the Tyne Theatre & Opera House in Newcastle. It was there that he became fascinated by ‘old theatres' and simultaneously began research for a PhD at Hull University. Having just completed his thesis he received news on Christmas Day 1985 that the stage house at the theatre had been burnt to the ground, and so began the restoration all over again! At the same time (and maybe there are two Dave Wilmore's!) he was also writing and directing a rock musical at the Newcastle Playhouse!
Christmas Day 1985 became effectively the day that his theatre consultancy theatresearch was formed, a consultancy looking specifically at the restoration of historic theatres. After the Tyne Theatre restoration was complete David was involved in the restoration of the Playhouse Theatre in London and returned to Newcastle to take up the post of stage director for the Tyne Theatre Repertory Company (now Northern Stage) which was then based at the Tyne Theatre. It was there that he met up with Clive Odom, until recently involved in the restoration of the Royal Opera House, and together they provided the technical support, specification and management of all the technical facilities for the 1990 National Garden Festival in Gateshead. On taking up his current post in Harrogate in 1990 (he also moved house and got married at the same time!) he continued to develop the theatresearch practice and has recently been joined by Ric Green, technical director of Opera North.
Articles and publications have always been important to the theatresearch practice. David collaborated with Terence Rees on British Theatrical Patents 1801-1900 as well as publishing and editing in 1998 Edwin O. Sachs:Architect, Stagehand, Engineer & Fireman. Current projects include a new biography on Frank Matcham as well as editing a book by David Anderson Hearses at Midnight -The Exeter Theatre Royal Fire which will be published next year by Entertainment Technology Press. David's passion for books he admits as a weakness - and the theatresearch library is testament to the fact! If it's about old theatres the chances are they've got a copy!
Theatre restoration projects are of course his main passion and the recently completed Gaiety Theatre at Douglas, Isle of Man (run by two gentleman previously featured in this very rogues gallery: Messrs Stokes & Shea) is a product of their collective collaboration. Inevitably of course there's a book about it all entitled Full Circle!
Other schemes are always in the melting pot and the practice is currently involved in well over a dozen projects which include restoration and conservation work at the Everyman Theatre Cheltenham (1890), Georgian Theatre Richmond (1788), Wakefield Opera House (1894) and City Varieties Leeds (1865).
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