Tomorrow, theatres across the country will all start courting you as they strive to be named as the UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre. There will be flyers, stickers, and quite possibly, balloons.
I may be a little biased, but when I think of welcoming theatres, it’s always the Albany who springs to mind, right at the top of the list.
It’s not surprising. When the Albany was rebuilt back in the early eighties, it was with the express idea of creating an accessible space – one which would serve as the cultural hub of the Deptford community, welcoming locals in with cups of tea and an endless list of events. It wasn’t just going to be a theatre, it was going to be an arts centre.
Over thirty years later and it is still as important to us now as it was then, though the way we do it may have changed. The café is still open to the public, but now audience members can get behind the scenes glimpses of the inner workings of a theatre and arts centre with tweets, and Facebook, and even here, right on this very blog. While out on Deptford Market, our pink pavilion is a familiar sight, as we set it up to tell people about everything that’s happening in our beautiful home (and usually end up chatting about almost everything else, and making friends with the local dog population… or, perhaps that’s just me).
However, nothing beats popping in to the Albany itself to see what is going on. And there is always something.
This summer we were taken over by Lewisham’s teenage population with our Summer Arts programme, which filled the theatre with art and music for three weeks, sharing their newly honed skills up on the main stage at the end of every week.
While on Tuesdays (which soon became my favourite day of the week after joining the comms team at the Albs) we throw open our doors to Meet Me at the Albany, a club for people over 60, who want to try out new activities and make new friends.
The Albany is more than a just theatre, or even an arts centre. It’s a place to meet friends and natter over lunch, a spot where you can retreat from the bustle of Deptford Market and relax amongst the flowers in our garden, and a second home, where you can set up your laptop and crack out your latest novel (or just catch up on your emails).
So come over to the Albany, grab a coffee from the café, and a novel from the book corner, and put your feet up. Stay for a show, or just enjoy the last of the summer sun out in our garden.
You are most welcome.
Voting for the My Theatre Matters!’s UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre opens bright and early at 9am on Tuesday 9 September. If you, like me, think the Albany is the most welcoming theatre in the country, you can cast your vote for us here. The polls close at 11.59pm on Monday 29 September.
Maxine Smiles, Junior Communications Assistant, The Albany