IT isn't every weekend you get to celebrate your 275th birthday.

You'd expect York Theatre Royal not to allow this weekend's landmark to pass by quietly. And you'd be right.

"It's going to be one big party," said a theatre spokesperson about the packed three days of tours, exhibitions, feasts and taster sessions that begins on Friday. Even the theatre ghosts have been invited to the party...

If you've not been to the historic theatre recently, and just want a chance to have a look around, this could be it.

The Grade II listed building, which dates back to the 18th century, is a patchwork quilt of many periods.

The site where the theatre now stands has been used for many things through the 2,000 years of York's history; including a Roman barracks, a 12th century medieval hospital, and the York Mint (yes, really).

The theatre itself was built in 1744 (as you should have been able to work out, given that this weekend is its 275th birthday) and it has operated as a working theatre ever since.

There have been many changes down the years, however. A Victorian façade was added to cover the original Georgian interior, and in the 1960s there was a poured concrete extension. More recently, the historic building underwent a multi-million pound refurbishment designed to improve access and flexibility and make it a theatre fit to serve a 21st century audience.

A series of free, half-hour guided tours will be held throughout the next three days, starting from 10am and Friday and with the final one beginning at 2pm on Sunday. Setting off from the theatre's foyer, they will take you on a tour of the hidden backstage areas, and will allow you to find out about some of the theatre's secrets - and discover more about its history.

Also planned during the next three days are a series of 'ghost hunts' - a chance to explore the spooky goings on which have happened at the theatre over the centuries, in the company of renowned actor and ghost geek Julian Fitzmaurice.

Will you be able to find the illusive ghost of The Grey Lady? Or perhaps glimpse the ghost of a legendary actor from the past, practising their lines in the wings?

The first of the ghost hunts (tickets £5 for over 18s and free to those under 16) will be held at 2pm on Friday, with two more at 11am and 3pm on Sunday. They are billed as being 'for ghost hunters and their families aged 8 and up'. But be warned, a theatre spokesman said. "This experience may contain spooky moments. All children must be accompanied by an adult."

Throughout the weekend, more stories will be told in the De Grey Rooms, which will be transformed for the birthday celebrations - and which will also house a free costume exhibition, open open from 11am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday, showcasing the amazing array of outfits from the costume department.

Pauline and Claire, from Costume Hire, will be on hand to tell the stories behind these costumes: a rare chance to see clothing and accessories from the theatre’s store of precious items, plus hand-drawn designs from past productions as well as vintage and antique items.

Nobody will go hungry during the birthday celebrations. On Saturday and Sunday a 'birthday barbecue' on the patio will offer lamb and chicken shawarma and grilled halloumi, all served with pittas, tabbouleh, salad, Greek salad, tzatziki and hummus.

Saturday and Sunday will also see the York Theatre Royal Choir offering free 'taster' sessions. "From vocal warm-ups to learning a piece of music for use in a theatre production, you will see what makes the choir unique among York choirs, a theatre spokesperson said. Saturday sessions are 11.30am to 12.15pm, then 2.45pm to 3.30pm; Sunday, 1pm to 1.45pm.

For full details of the 275th birthday weekend celebrations, visit

Tickets for the tours can be booked by calling 01904 623568, online at or in person at the theatre in St Leonard’s Place.