Prince Charles and Camilla visited Wilton’s Music Hall in Graces Alley, between Wapping and Whitechapel, to meet some of those involved in the restoration project, tour the newly revamped building, watch some performances reminiscent of the music hall’s Victorian heyday, sign the official re-opening document and meet local schoolchildren involved in theatre projects.
As Wilton’s Music Hall patron, Prince Charles first visited back in 2006 when the building was still a poor condition. At that time he met a team of volunteers and supporters who were hoping to bring the building back to its original state and agreed to lend his support. The restoration has been completed in stages and for the official opening many historians and architects involved in the repairs were on hand to celebrate the task completion.
Wilton’s Music Hall opened in 1859. It was originally a set of houses, one of which was an ale house, and has gone through various incarnations, including a Methodist mission and a rag warehouse. It is now an independent charity and a landmark music hall for the modern day. It receives no core funding, and survives through raising funds from donations, ticket and bar sales and rental income.
Actor, musician and theatre director Simon Callow CBE, as a frequent visitor to Wilton’s, hosted this week’s event. He introduced a selection of music hall delights: a Victorian magic show from Morgan and West, a thrilling cabaret number from pianist Gwyneth Herbert and Frances Ruffelle, and a music hall piece from celebrated comedian Barry Cryer with son Bob Cryer, which brought the main stage to life. Even the locals took part in the event, with students from Harry Gosling School performing 19th century songs for the royal guests.
Holly Kendrick, Executive Director at Wilton’s Music Hall, said the royal visit marked a “significant moment in the history of the venue”. She added: ”Wilton’s is a sensational historic venue for the modern day, in the heart of the East End, and a celebrated home of culture and community spanning a huge variety of genres from theatre, dance and music to cabaret and comedy.
“After a lengthy transitional period, Wilton’s is officially back on the map and we are all tremendously excited for what this year’s programme will bring.”
A variety show inspired by Shakespeare’s fairy tales entitled “Bottom’s Dream” kicks off the new programme to raise funds for Wonderful Beast’s forthcoming festival Storm of Stories.
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