The Mill at Sonning winning UKTA Most Welcoming Theatre 2016
This time a year ago The Mill’s management team sat down to discuss a very important matter – how were we going to win the elusive ‘Most Welcoming Theatre’ award?
One by one, we were given our tasks. For the box office staff, there was an extra special effort to welcome and greet customers. For the restaurant staff, the waiters and waitresses made sure they asked as many people as possible to vote for us. Whilst our backstage team continued to make visiting actors feel as welcome as possible.
We knew we had tried our best, and to our delight, this was confirmed by the phone call to say that we’d won our region - South East. But what were our chances in the overall award? The National award?.
When a team of six of us made our way to Guildhall, we all expected to come home empty-handed. We were there to enjoy the champagne, the lovely lunch and to clap the lucky winners. Nothing more.
So, as you can imagine, we couldn’t believe our ears when our name was actually called out! Did they really just say ‘The Mill at Sonning’?
As soon as we got back to our table we were on our social media pages to share the news. The messages of congratulations came flooding in and every one of us was buzzing with excitement.
On Monday morning, we couldn’t wait to share the news with the other 102 members of staff at the theatre. From front-of-house to backstage there was an electric atmosphere and a feeling that everyone – from every department – had contributed to the win. And of course we couldn’t wait to share it with the most important people of all – our audience!
So what next? After a few more glasses of champagne, at a management meeting we discussed how we could make the most of the Award.
Immediately, our master carpenter was called away from set building to fix the stunning winner’s plaque to the theatre’s entrance for all to see. Our website was updated with the news. And the winning banner proudly displayed on all email signatures. Interviews by local press and radio came thick and fast. And the ‘Most Welcoming Theatre of 2016’ banner appears on all advertisements, show programmes and season brochures.
One of the biggest benefits of winning the award has been the way it has affected our tourist trade – both UK and overseas. Being able to say that we’re the UK’s Most Welcoming Theatre has undoubtedly attracted more people to visit us and long may that continue.
So here we are again. One year later and another management meeting has just taken place. Top of the agenda was how to retain the coveted title. The clues to our strategy will be kept close to our chest. This year we are even more determined to win! And we will be trying harder and harder and harder. Watch out!
You can vote for 2017's Most Welcoming Theatre here.
Find out more about the UK Theatre Awards here.