The new season has just kicked off at Hemel Hempstead’s last remaining bastion of Civic Centre-supported arts, but to the team at the Old Town Hall the continuing clamour for a replacement Dacorum Pavilion isn’t distracting them from their primary purpose – putting bums on seats and spreading the word about what’s on offer in the High Street.
A new face on the team is Kara Szifris, who has taken charge of marketing the venue and is hard at work learning what audiences want and coming up with a strategy to reach as many potential punters as possible.
The bulk of OTH audiences are drawn from Hemel Hempstead, although travellers from Watford, Luton and other towns are not unknown.
Undisputed strengths of the OTH offer include popular family drama productions – the first show of the season on Saturday was a children’s theatre show – and comedy.
Standout stand-up dates for the weeks ahead include cult comic Rob Newman’s latest show on Friday, February 15 and Boothby Graffoe – featuring this week on Comedy Central’s new alternative comedy showcase – on Saturday, March 16.
But Kara, who cut her teeth on the Edinburgh Fringe and the prestigious Warwick Arts Centre, is keen to promote the range of programming at the 120-seat venue. She points to singer Ola Onabule (Saturday, March 9) and physical theatre show Backgammon For Beginners (Friday, March 15) as ones to watch.
But once the spring season is complete, it’s time for change – a refit is waiting in the wings to improve facilities at the venue, and although some disruption is assured the team is confident that it will all be worth it.
Even when the work is complete, the OTH will never pretend to be a replacement for the Pavilion – but that doesn’t mean it can’t punch above its weight