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Maureen Kershaw and a male actor smile at the camera dressed in 20s clothing

In Conversation With... Maureen Kershaw

Leeds Heritage Theatres could not operate without the help of our enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers. Get to know one of our volunteer Front of House Attendants, Maureen Kershaw, as she tells us about her role.

Written by Maureen Kershaw.

Describe a shift in the life of a Front of House Volunteer?

A briefing by the Duty Manager informs us of the house numbers, any wheelchairs booked in or possible access issues. Running times, any photography/filming restrictions, latecomers advisory, merch information or possible Meet & Greets are also covered, together with supervisory staff on radio in case of emergency. Our house positions are confirmed and, most importantly, fire doors allocated.

At ‘House Open’, we welcome our audience, check tickets and direct them accordingly. We can enjoy the performance (often too enjoyable to even take our break!), ever on the alert for patrons’ welfare and any safety issues, photography, etc.

At ‘Curtain Down’, as our audience leaves, we thank them, wishing them a good night and a safe journey home. If the audience is happy then so are we. Our job is done!


What three skills do you think are most important in your role?

A friendly and approachable attitude. The ability to handle queries or problems in a calm and understanding manner, relaying to the Duty Manager swiftly where necessary. Oh – and definitely a sense of humour!

Maureen Kershaw stands against the Panto display cabinet at The Varieties dressed in her uniform

Maureen stands next to the Panto archive display cabinet at The Varieties

What has been the highlight (to date) of your time at Leeds Heritage Theatres?

Following retirement from Box Office at Leeds Playhouse, I volunteered Front of House for nine years until they closed for refurbishment. Moving to City Varieties, I never looked back – and never went back! From a programme of Shakespeare and the classics at Leeds Playhouse, my first Varieties shift was The Bay City Rollers – I wondered what had hit me! A night I will never forget!


What is the most challenging thing about your role?

Traffic/parking problems resulting in a surge of last minute arrivals can raise the blood pressure somewhat. And to ensure our audience are welcomed and seated without any delay to the show is something we as a team pride ourselves on.


What advice would you give to anyone thinking about volunteering?

Unfortunately, since the pandemic, many of our volunteers have been unable to return, but with the support of our friends from ‘over the road’ at The Grand, our family has grown again – but we need many more volunteers! We’re a good bunch of chums and fiercely protective of each other, so are always on hand to help out. If we can add to someone’s enjoyment of their visit – by answering a question, putting them at their ease, offering to fetch an ice cream, or just returning a rollator to their seat – we know we have given service with a smile!

I’m 74 with two artificial knees and as long as I can climb those steep stairs to the Circle and beyond, I’m not giving up!

Maureen’s Favourite Things

Favourite venue – The Grand, Varieties, Hyde Park? Why?

As a child I loved the Saturday matinees at Hyde Park, my favourite of our neighbourhood cinemas. The Grand is special to me also as I was lucky to appear in many amateur musicals there, the last role being Mrs Higgins in My Fair Lady. A stage level dressing room at last then the Company went bankrupt, but nothing to do with my costume and wig bill! I have to say though that my favourite venue is The Varieties.


Favourite story about that venue?

In 1981/2 I was in productions of Salad Days and The Boy Friend. I’m always reminded of the latter when a couple of the stage cloths we used back then feature in The Good Old Days.


Favourite show/act/film you have seen at one of our venues?

It’s hard to choose one favourite! I’m not a lover of modern comedy, being more of a John Shuttleworth and Count Arthur Strong fan. Nor do I follow cricket or tennis, yet some of the most entertaining evenings have been spent listening to retired commentators! Variety is certainly the name of the game.

A woman in a long dress with a large hat, parasol and a feathery shawl

Maureen Kershaw as Mrs Higgins in My Fair Lady

Favourite thing to do in your spare time?

During lockdown I started blogging (prompted by one of our Archivists!) which led me to becoming a regular writer for Shine Magazine for over 55s. Reminiscences on practically anything are a particular favourite.


What would you be doing if not in your current role?

In my early twenties I shadowed a friend who was Passenger Hostess onboard a ferry but sadly I didn’t get her job when she left to join BOAC (now British Airways) as I couldn’t speak sufficient conversational Swedish. I still would have loved that job but there’s a limit to how often one can ask “what is the time?” which is about all I can remember now!

A man in a pin-striped suit and straw boater with a woman in pink 1920s style clothes

Maureen Kershaw in The Boy Friend with The Varieties cloth which is still being used for The Good Old Days.

We are always looking for more volunteers at our venues. Volunteering is a great way to meet people, experience something new, share your knowledge and passion, and develop additional skills. 

Find out more

City Varieties Music Hall Buildings Fund

The City Varieties Music Hall is the gem in Leeds’ crown. As the city’s oldest theatre, we want to ensure that Britain’s longest, continuously operating music hall is here for future generations, making it more accessible, sustainable, and comfortable. All donations will be fully invested in the building and equipment and will enhance your experience as a customer.

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