YORK'S community-run theatre has survived another year, fuelled solely by volunteers and donations.

First commissioned by the Joseph Rowntree Village Trust, the Joseph Rowntree Theatre was built in 1935 and faced the original factory across the road. Apart from the swimming pool, it remains the only building made for the old chocolatiers that's still used for its original purpose.

In 1988, Rowntree's was bought by Nestlé, and over time, the theatre was sold to York St John's University despite still being operated by the Joseph Rowntree Trust and finally, it was taken on by the Trust.

York Press: Outside Joseph Rowntree theatreOutside Joseph Rowntree theatre (Image: Harry Booth)

The sport and social manager at Rowntree's when they were taken over, Arnold Durham, was instrumental in keeping the theatre alive and preventing it from being demolished. 

Arnold said: "There was some reluctance from people which I understand, it's a lot of hard work."

Keeping the theatre alive to this day, about 150 volunteers help to run and perform in productions along with a fully operational theatre staff, box office and confectionary stand.

For the past year, the theatre has encountered new challenges including an entire roof replacement as well as the installation of a new bar.

York Press: The view from the stage at the upper deck of the theatreThe view from the stage at the upper deck of the theatre (Image: Harry Booth)

Speaking to the theatre's front of house director, Gary Bateson, spoke of the collective desire to keep the theatre up and running.

He said: "This theatre means a lot, we all love the theatre and just being a part of the world.

"It's about the involvement and the belonging."

Perhaps the biggest undertaking the theatre had to deal with this year was replacing the roof.

Gary said: "The roof was in a state of disrepair, the tiles hadn't changed since 1935 and needed to be replaced.

"When we realised it needed replacing we started off a campaign.

"At first we did 'buy a tile' where people could pay for each individual tile, we made hundreds of flyers and posted them through every single letterbox in the area."

York Press: The temporary outside bar at the theatreThe temporary outside bar at the theatre (Image: Harry Booth)

Following the 'buy a tile' campaign was the launch of 'raise the roof', after about a year of effort the theatre had raised the £95,000 it needed for the new roof.

Included in the renovation, the board opted to put solar panels on the roof, making it the second grade 2 listed building in York with solar panels.

Gary said: "As well as repairing the roof we wanted to future proof the theatre."

On the outside of the building, efforts to bring in more revenue can be seen by the caravan-turned bar at the entrance. With plans to build a more permanent structure for next year, with a garden room, toilets and bar proposed.

2023 has seen positive strides forward made in the theatre's rich history, with a fantastic events calendar leading into the new year.