Hope Mill Theatre

Happy Birthday Hope Mill Theatre

In 2015 I started university in Manchester and moved out of the Midlands and up north to settle in the big city, the year the Hope Mill Theatre opened. I openly admit I chose to go to university there because aside from London (which is hugely expensive) it’s the other biggest city that has a huge theatre scene. When I arrived in Manchester I started contacting local theatres to get involved in reviewing their shows and delve into the north west’s culture scene.

In my first week at university, I received an email inviting me to the press launch of one of my all-time favourite musicals Parade at the Hope Mill Theatre – a new theatre opened by a young couple that moved out of London to create a theatre venue. After owners William Whelton and Joseph Houston bid for the old cotton mill in Ancoats on Gumtree, they transformed it into the most beautifully unique 120 seater venue that has now become a powerhouse home for musicals.

I won’t lie – I was sceptical upon arriving at the press launch for Parade as the soaring soundtrack is a challenging piece of musical theatre. However, I was truly blown away. Having heard the cast sing a few numbers and spoken to producer Katy Lipson, director James Baker and the cast, I remember leaving knowing that it was set to be a truly special show.


Parade press launch at the Hope Mill Theatre


And it was. And so was every single in-house musical I’ve seen the Hope Mill Theatre create. With London transfers, a multitude of awards and huge success it really is a revolutionary venue that is so desperately needed in the UK’s theatre industry right now.

The hard work Joseph, William and Katy Lipson from Aria Entertainment have put into pushing this theatre to grow is astounding. One-minute Will and Joe are accepting an award at a fancy theatre event in London and the next they’re making pizzas and checking tickets at the Hope Mill which proves how much of their heart they pour into their theatre.

The intimacy of the space gives musicals a whole new meaning, with everything from the emotionally charged Parade, vibrantly immersive Hair, sublimely sung Aspects of Love, moving Little Women to the entirely poignant Spring Awakening (and so much more). Every single musical has touched me in a different way and they just seem to keep lifting the bar and blowing me away.

It changed the way I felt about musical theatre as it brings the audience so close into the action you really feel everything to another level. I’ll never forget seeing Spring Awakening by the most phenomenal young cast, a lot of them doing their debuts, who brought absolutely everything to that story. I lost my best friend last year and I try and keep my grief tucked away to pursue a busy lifestyle and keep myself going, but Darragh Cowley’s performance at the end of Spring Awakening tore me to pieces. The honesty in his eyes as he sang about his grief resonated with me so profoundly and I felt something I really desperately needed to feel.

Theatre has the power to be a cathartic experience as it brings out the emotions in you that you bury away and the Hope Mill Theatre is a venue that really captures that. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve felt just about everything at this wonderful theatre.


Darragh Cowley and the cast of Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill Theatre
Darragh Cowley & the cast of Spring Awakening. Photo: Scott Rylander


This is a love letter to my favourite venue that ticks every single box that more theatre should be thriving to do. Its accessible prices, high-quality productions, welcoming atmosphere and bold programming is what makes the Hope Mill Theatre a place so close to my heart and why I am so passionate about everything they do.

So Happy Birthday Hope Mill Theatre, here’s to the most incredible three years and a future of many, many more.


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