Talking to Ray King, Chair of Trustees, and Lisa Rich, Venue Manager
Ray King and Lisa Rich joined The Milton Rooms either side of the Covid pandemic — Lisa just a week before the UK descended into national lockdown, Ray when we were emerging out of the other side. Both saw an opportunity in the pandemic to recreate The Milton Rooms and what it’s all about. Together with their team of trustees and volunteers, they made a commitment to breathe new life into the iconic cornerstone of Malton Market Place and bring it forwards into the 21st Century. And they have been working hard to make good on this commitment ever since.
The Milton Rooms is a complex of venues, including a bar, meeting rooms and a 300-seat-capacity theatre with the largest sprung wooden dance floor in the North of England. It is run almost entirely by volunteers. There are over 75 volunteers on the books currently, but Lisa, who is the venue manager, says they’re always on the lookout for additional help and rising backstage stars.
The team care dearly about curating an event calendar that appeals, in at least one way or another, to everyone living in Malton, Norton and the surrounding areas. “We have had to rebuild the reputation of The Milton Rooms and to restore peoples feeling about it,” Lisa said, adding: “We made a conscious decision after Covid to just jump in and try every act we can, and if it doesn’t work, we learn from it — because if you don’t try, you just don’t know.”
Over recent months, The Milton Rooms has hosted a wide array of charities and not-for-profit organisations. These include Ryedale Dog Rescue and Autism Plus. Ray, whose role is the chair of trustees, also highlights that the venue hosted Ukrainian coffee mornings and has “good relationships with local schools.”
Just about everything Ray and Lisa are doing at The Milton Rooms is with a view to restoring it to its rightful place within the local community.
And that is true beyond the changes to the sorts of shows and events that are taking place. Currently, there’s an ambitious and large-scale renovation and refurbishment project underway.
“We’ve introduced a lift to the disabled toilets, so it’s now fully accessible,” said Ray. “And we’ve had installed a state of the art sound and lighting system too. We’ve even had external sound engineers coming in and saying, ‘This is just amazing and comparable with some much bigger venues!’”
The next stage of the renovation project involves making some much-needed changes to the studio bar, next to the main theatre, and the assembly rooms — an elegant, Grade II listed part of the building able to accommodate up to 80 people and ideal for meetings.
Lisa and Ray are very excited about some of the events they have lined up over autumn and winter this year.
On 6 October 2023, BBC radio presenter Bob Harris and music journalist Colin Hall discuss and revisit the songs The Beatles wrote but never released in “The Songs The Beatles Gave Away.”
Soon after, on 8 October 2023, The Milton Rooms will host Charles Hanson, one of the U.K.’s most well-known auctioneers, made famous by his antics on such programmes as Bargain Hunt, Flog It and Antiques Road Trip.
There will also be a whole host of tribute artists making their way to the stage, including, on 10 November, Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
Tickets for events up to April 2024 can be purchased on The Milton Rooms website.
A registered charity, something many don’t realise, The Milton Rooms are always on the lookout for more volunteers to keep their events running and running smoothly.
If you would like to join Ray and Lisa in keeping the heart of the venue beating, call 01653 696240 or email email@example.com. To find out about donating, visit themiltonrooms.com/support-us/donate/.