York Theatre Royal creates a ‘pocket park’ in the centre of the city

by Handy Mag

Work has started on creating an attractive, accessible and sustainable ‘pocket park’ – a new public open space for the whole community in the centre of York.

The £150k Patio Garden Project at York Theatre Royal aims to provide a family-friendly outdoor space that’s adaptable, multi-functional and able to host a variety of activities and outdoor events all year round for theatre audiences, visitors and the community.

The scheme was launched with a public appeal for donations in 2018 but work has been delayed until now by pandemic restrictions.

The garden is in a historic location between two listed buildings – the Theatre Royal and De Grey House on St Leonard’s Place. Originally an extended garden between these buildings, the patio area was created as part of the Patrick Gwynn design for the 1967 foyer extension of the theatre. The design included unique 1960s triangular paving.

Yorkshire-based company Lizzie Tulip Landscape and Garden Design have worked on the project. Lizzie has an extensive portfolio and is a Chelsea Flower Show medal winner.

The planting palette within the border areas will provide year-round interest for visitors as well as passers-by on the street with trees, shrubs, perennials, ferns, ornamental grasses and climbers to provide structure, blossom and foliage colour. Many will be beneficial to birds and insects. Bulbs will also offer seasonal interest.

Theatrical references within the planting scheme are playfully included as rose varieties Rosa Falstaff and Dame Judi Dench take centre stage in the summer.

The design includes a flexible performance space with staging, an outdoor café area and lighting that will enable evening use of the space.

A new ramp will make the space fully accessible for wheelchair users and buggy users.

Work on transforming the space began this week and should be completed by September this year.

Lizzie Tulip said: “The scheme will open up and make accessible this under-utilised space as an environment for visitors and residents to enjoy as a garden for theatre, a garden for entertainment and a garden for relaxation and refreshment. It is such a pleasure to work on this much-needed Green space within the skirt of the city walls and York Minster.

Jonathan Bryant, Secretary and CEO of York Conservation Trust, said: “York Conservation Trust is proud to have a strong partner relationship with York Citizens Theatre Trust through which it cares for York Theatre Royal for the benefit of York’s many communities and visitors to our city.

“The Patio Garden Project reminds us that theatre can have many stages. It makes excellent use of external space adjacent to the highly-acclaimed 1967 extension by Patrick Gwynn and will be a valuable new public space in the city.”

As the plans have developed, the project cost has risen from £50,000 to £150k to ensure accessibility and sustainability as well as inflationary price rises for materials and services.

As well as public donations, the theatre was awarded £2,000 from The Bruce Wake Charitable Trust and also secured £3,000 from an individual donor.

You can donate to the Garden Patio Project at https://www.yorktheatreroyal.co.uk/support-us/make-the-difference/.

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