Ambassador Theatre Group

THE Ambassadors Cinema in Woking will close at the end of September for a major overhaul, which won’t see the venue reopen until the summer of 2020.

The town’s cinema since the Ambassadors complex was built in 1992, the venue has been running for 364 days a year since opening 27 years ago. With this comes a fair amount of wear and tear, on everything from the seats to the carpets.

Now with the chance for reinvention, with investment from Woking Borough Council and Ambassador Theatre Group, management say the project marks a significant collaboration as part of the town-wide regeneration.

“It’s going to be more than just a refurbishment. We’re going to strip the whole of the existing building out and start again,” said cinema project director Simon Thomsett.

The cinema will be closed from Saturday 28 September.

THE couple who founded the Ambassador Theatre Group joined a veteran fireman who has worked as a volunteer for the Red Cross for half a century in being given the Freedom of the Borough by Woking council.

Beryl Hunwicks, the Mayor of Woking, presents Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire with velum scrolls marking them being given Freedom of the Borough

Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire, who live in West Byfleet, built ATG into the world’s number one live-theatre company with almost 50 venues in Britain, the US and Europe.

They topped The Stage 100 most influential people in UK theatre every year between 2010 and 2016 and were first in the Evening Standard “Power 1,000” in theatre in 2013.

In 2005, Dame Rosemary became only the second female president of the Society of London Theatre in its 100 year history.

She said: “To be bestowed the Honorary Freedom of the Borough by Woking Borough Council is a true honour. Woking Borough is not only our home but also the home to our businesses having spent more than two decades running Ambassador Theatre Group here.”

Mick Bullen, who has volunteered with the Red Cross for more than 50 years

The honour was also given to Mick Bullen who joined the Fire Brigade in 1961, serving at Woking, Chertsey and Painshill in senior positions and working as an instructor at Reigate. Mick retired from the fire service in 1989.

His work with the Red Cross began in 1965 driving ambulances and in 2016 he became county vice- president.

“When I first volunteered for the Red Cross all those years ago, who’d have thought I’d be still going over 50 years later. It is moments like this that make you proud to be part of this community,” he said.

Beryl Hunwicks, the Mayor of Woking, presented all three with the Freeman’s Badge, ceremonial velum scroll and certificate marking the occasion. Their names will be inscribed on the Roll of Freemen of the Borough, which hangs in the council chamber.

For the full story get the 20 June edition of the News & Mail

TWO entrepreneurs who built notable careers in the entertainment industry have relocated part of their business from West Byfleet to Woking town centre, as part of their new company’s expansion.

Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire have spent more than two decades running their former global business, Ambassador Theatre Group, from the town.

Dame Rosemary Squire and Sir Howard Panter, whose new venture of Trafalgar Entertainment has seen significant growth.

Their new business venture, Trafalgar Entertainment, is following a similar path and has moved into Export House in Wolsey Walk.

A live entertainment business, the company has seen significant growth since it was established in 2017. It originally operated from its West End venue of Trafalgar Studios, and has since opened two offices, in The Strand in London and in West Byfleet.

The company has gone on to acquire Trafalgar Releasing, formerly Picturehouse Entertainment, and Stagecoach Performing Arts.

Rosemary Squire, executive chairman and joint chief executive of Trafalgar Entertainment, said: “Howard and I live in Surrey and have based our work here and in London for over two decades.

“When we founded ATG, the New Victoria Theatre and Ambassadors Cinemas at the Peacocks Centre in Woking became our very first regional venues. We later established our head office in the town centre.”

Rosemary, who was made an OBE for services to theatre in 2007, added: “When we started Trafalgar Entertainment in 2017, with so many new colleagues also based in Surrey, we always knew we’d love to have a presence in Woking again. Now of course, we’ve been able to bring our colleagues from Stagecoach Performing Arts along with us, which is a really exciting development and it feels like a homecoming for us all.

“We have two wonderful contemporary office spaces in London and Woking which are great platforms for our future growth. We’re truly delighted with our new home at Export House and we’re looking forward to working alongside the other companies in the building.”

For the full story get the 16 May edition of the News & Mail