Andrew’s world’s a stage

Todmorden U3A chairman David Cross, left, and speaker Andrew Rawlinson
Todmorden U3A chairman David Cross, left, and speaker Andrew Rawlinson

One of Todmorden’s own, well-known to many in the town, was the guest speaker at the annual and June general meeting of Todmorden U3A.

Andrew Rawlinson, of Todmorden Hippodrome and many other theatrical venues, was the person in question, entitling his talk “Off Stage Choices”. Andrew’s first encounter with theatre was in his primary school nativity play, in his case, at Shade. It was here that his “passion for theatre was ignited”. In 1983, while at Tod High, he encountered Todmorden Youth Operatic Section which was a turning point in his life, he told his audience.

It was here he learned discipline, grew in confidence and learned valuable life skills. As well as acting, Andrew took on the gamut of back stage work, familiarising himself with all that went into creating a stage production. Despite all this, a career in theatre didn’t immediately open up before him when it was time for him to leave school.

It was while working at Sutcliffe’s furniture that Andrew and a friend organised a murder mystery event at Todmorden Old Hall to raise money for charity. Such was its success, Andrew decided to form a company to put on murder mystery parties. He left Sutcliffe’s when he took over the running of Walsden Post Office when his father retired from that role.

When the Arts Council announced that it believed that arts organisations needed to get to grips with the business aspects of their work, and were offering training in this area, Andrew accepted the offer. He had a spell with Horse and Bamboo Theatre at Waterfoot, then as manager at Blackfriars Arts Centre in Boston, Lincs. This gave him chance to direct as well as gain experience of running a theatre. This led Andrew to the post of General Manager of the Palace Theatre, Manchester. He was now encountering stars and told how he was approached by a red-top newspaper with an offer of £5,000 for some tittle-tattle about a particular celebrity. He turned it down.

Andrew told of his first insight into what it is to be a public figure. He was with Peter Kay on one occasion when he was spotted by the public. Andrew found the experience disturbing.

Following stints managing Sunderland Empire and Liverpool Empire successively, Andrew is now general manager of Ambassador Theatre Group, the UK’s largest theatre group. His ambition now is to produce shows.

New vice-chairman Jean Pearson moved the vote of thanks and presented Andrew with the customary token of appreciation for a talk which both amused and fascinated his audience.

The annual preceded Andrew’s talk and chairman David Cross was re-elected unopposed; Jean was elected; membership secretary is Margaret Dunill and Roger Howard, vice-treasurer.