Georgian Theatre welcomes fishy donations

PHOTO CAPTION: The Venerable Shirley Griffiths (right) and Gillian Spokes a Lay Pastoral Minister at St Stephen’s Church in Willington are pictured with part of the out-going Miracle of Fish display.

The Georgian Theatre Royal has welcomed the response to its appeal for knitted fish for its festive production of Pinocchio, which has included a donation of around 500 fishy friends from St Stephen’s Church in Willington, County Durham.

Using knitted props is a long-standing tradition at the Richmond theatre and over the years there have been bananas, apples, leaves, lightbulbs, doughnuts and hearts – all lovingly created in their thousands.

These objects are often thrown by the audience at a specific part of the action or used as delightfully quirky front of house decorations.

Mostly the items are knitted by individuals in the months leading up to the pantomime but, as luck might have it, St Stephen’s has recently hosted a Miracle of Fish community art installation that has now come to an end, leaving shoals of knitted fish looking for a good home.

The church art installation was the brainchild of the Venerable Shirley Griffiths, the retired Archdeacon of Wrexham, who during lockdown read about a church tower covered in knitted poppies.

A keen craftswoman herself, she decided that it would be fun to replicate the idea using fish.

This resulted in a month-long display during July and August at Willington Church, featuring 1,300 fish made from wood, card, wool, and recycled materials.

Fish and other sea-themed art covered almost every inch of the church, both inside and out, with varying sections of the community contributing displays relating to Bible stories and teachings.

“We are thrilled to be able to donate our knitted fish to the Theatre,” said Shirley Griffiths.

“People have put such a lot of effort into making them and it is wonderful to think that they will now get another life and bring pleasure to an entirely different audience.”

Indeed, this might not be the fishes’ final destination, as the theatre also tries to find new homes for its knitted props once the pantomime is finished.

Last year, local nurseries and schools benefitted from the knitted hearts used in Beauty and the Beast and in previous years the knitted objects have made the journey to the RSPB reserve at Saltholme for inclusion in their popular yarn bombing displays.

“I love the fact that we are all helping each other out like this,” said Clare Allen, chief executive of The Georgian Theatre Royal and the pantomime’s director.

“Initially, people get great satisfaction from making them, and then others get immense joy and entertainment from their use. The more end users the better. It really is the best form of recycling!”

The theatre will be gratefully receiving knitted fish from now until the end of November. A fish knitting pattern can be picked up from the Box Office or downloaded from the panto page on the theatre’s website: www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk/Whats-on/Pantomime

Alternatively, people can make up their own designs, and all colours and sizes are welcomed.

Finished fish should be handed in at the Box Office or posted to arrive at the theatre (The Georgian Theatre Royal, Victoria Road, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL10 4DW) by Saturday 26 November.

Pinocchio runs at The Georgian Theatre Royal from Friday 2 December until Sunday 8 January 2023.

Tickets from £13 to £23 are available from the Box Office on 01748 825252 or via the online booking service at www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk