VECTIS VIEW: Paul Jennings: New director of the Apollo Players

By IW Mar 25, 2022

I have recently taken over as director of the Apollo Players, just at the start of their 50th season. To date the players have presented over 350 main stage productions at the Apollo Theatre in Pyle Street, Newport.

I moved to the Island, with my wife Sue, in 1970, to join what was then Plessey Radar (now BAE Systems). We have three children, one of whom is living my own dream of working in the professional theatre as a stage manager.

I joined the players in 1972, just as the conversion from a Methodist church to a theatre was concluding and the first production was about to open. I rolled my sleeves up and soon became deeply involved, largely on the technical side, including lighting, sound and set design.

After a term as production manager, I succeeded the Apollo’s founder, John Hancock, as director and served for nearly 10 years before stepping down. I continued to give as much time to the theatre as family and work would allow, in particular photographing each production. I also took over as chairman of the Apollo Theatre (IOW) Trust Ltd, which owns the theatre and is responsible for maintaining the Grade 2* and Grade 2 listed buildings in Pyle Street.

Since my retirement from BAE Systems in 2012, I have been able to take up a more active role including set building and design, but I have never yet appeared on stage!

I am proud to be part of such a well-founded organisation, which has presented a wide range of drama over the years. The Apollo strives to be as inclusive as possible in offering opportunities to take part on and off stage. We welcome members of all ages and abilities. Training and workshops are available to develop skills and experience.

Many past members have gone on to full-time careers in theatre. There is a very active youth group, led by Mish Whitmore, which meets throughout the year and presents at least one main stage production each season.

I have taken over at an exciting time when the Players and the Trust are transitioning into a single Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), a new form of charitable trust introduced by the Charity Commission, where all the members have voting rights. The CIO will continue to look after the buildings and ensure the Players comply with their charitable objectives by bringing drama and other performing arts to Island audiences. The day-to-day running of the theatre is the responsibility of a management committee comprising of myself, the artistic manager (Helen Reading), business manager (Martin Ward) and operations manager (Ian Moth), each with our own teams of volunteers to carry out the myriad of tasks necessary to operate the theatre and bring productions to the stage. We will report to a small board of trustees which the Apollo is currently recruiting. We want to find people not directly involved with the Apollo, but with an interest in performing arts on the Island, and prepared to give some time to oversee its strategy and direction. Please contact me at for more information.

All theatre is facing a challenging future. Some audiences are obviously keen to get back to normal after two years, while others remain cautious about mixing in public spaces. Financial concerns may discourage people from spending on leisure. The Apollo will itself suffer financial pressure if it is to continue presenting an annual season of seven plays (one every six weeks) while maintaining and developing our buildings and equipment. But I believe the

Apollo is up for this challenge and hope to see it continue to offer high quality drama at a price which makes it available to all.