Wyvern Theatre

Wyvern Theatre

The Wyvern Theatre is a theatre in Swindon, Wiltshire. The theatre is named after a mythical beast, similar to a dragon, which was once the emblem of the Kings of Wessex.


The Wyvern Theatre's story begins back in 1967 when Casson, Condor and Partner were commissioned to design a theatre to become the very heart of Swindon. The Theatre was first shown off to the people of Swindon on 7th September 1971 when the venue was officially opened by Her Majesty the Queen and His Royal Highness Prince Phillip. The very first performance to take place that day was Ukrainian Dance Company.

Despite being part of a civic centre of a modern town, researchers traced the history of the land on which the theatre was built.

In the late 1960s, numbers 27-32 Regent Place and 7-10 Princes Street were 'cleared' to make way for the theatre. The terraced houses and back alleyways had stood since the 1880s, records of habitation on the site spanned back further centuries. The site of the modern-day Wyvern stood adjacent to the ancient hamlet of Eastcott, before the rapidly expanding 19th century Swindon consumed the settlement.

In 2005 The Wyvern Theatre entered a new era. Clear Channel Entertainment had lost the tender to manage the venue and hence the Wyvern was taken over by a new Management company on behalf of Swindon Borough Council, this company was Wyvern Theatre Ltd, a subsidiary of Hetherington Seelig Theatres Ltd. With the arrival of the new Management company came a new angle on programming shows into the venue, with the focus being on dance, drama and community theatre.

Asbestos Incident

On September 3rd 2006 the venue was closed down temporarily after the discovery of traces of asbestos in the venue's offices and roof void during a routine inspection. The initial three-week planned closure became a two-month closure, a three-month closure and was then further extended and the venue remained closed until September 2007, a year after the discovery of the asbestos. The closure to remove the asbestos gave the management company the perfect opportunity to refurbish the venue throughout, bringing new decor, new bars and cafes, new disabled entrance facilities and new auditorium seating to replacing the seating which had been in place for the preceding 30 years. Performances which had been scheduled into the Wyvern during its closure period were transferred into other performance venues around the town, such as the Arts Centre, The Oasis and the New College Phoenix Theatre. The proposed pantomime for that year, however, (which was to star Bond Girl Britt Ekland), was canceled, as were subsequent shows up until the venue's re-opening. The first performance, after the 1.3 million revamp, is set to take place on 25th September . [ cite news
last =
first =
coauthors =
title = Theatre opens for public viewings
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publisher = BBC News
date = 2007-09-22
url = http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/wiltshire/7008033.stm
accessdate = 2007-09-22

Theatre Management Company

???? - 2001 - Apollo Leisure

2001 - 2002 - SFX Venues

2002 - 2005 - Clear Channel Entertainment

2005 - 2007 - Hetherington Seelig Theatres Ltd

2007 - Present HQ Theatres (a joint venture between H.S.T Ltd and Qdos Entertainment)


1971/2 - "Dick Whittington"

1972/3 - "Cinderella"

1973/4 - "Dick Whittington"

1974/5 - "Aladdin"

1975/6 - "Mother Goose"

1976/7 - "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"

1977/8 - "Babes in the Wood"

1978/9 - "Cinderella"

1979/0 - "Jack and the Beanstalk"

1980/1 -

1981/2 - "Aladdin" - Starring Bernie Winters ("Whose Baby?")

1982/3 -

1983/4 - "Babes in the Wood"

1984/5 - "Cinderella"

1985/6 -

1986/7 - "Jack and the Beanstalk" - Starring Johnny Ball (ITV's "Think of a Number, Playschool")

1987/8 - "Babes in the Wood"

1988/9 - "Jack and the Beanstalk"

1989/0 - "Mother Goose" - Starring Adam Woodyatt ("Eastenders"' Ian Beale) as Billy

1990/1 - "Aladdin" - Starring Floella Benjamin (BBC TV's "Playschool") as Aladdin and Bobby Gee (Bucks Fizz)

1991/2 - "Cinderella" - Starring Matthew Kelly (ITV's "You Bet" & "Stars in their Eyes") as Buttons

1992/3 - "Jack and the Beanstalk" - Starring Trevor Bannister (Mr Lucas from BBC TV's "Are you Being Served?")

1993/4 - "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" - Starring Brian Hibbard (ITV's "Making Out" & "Coronation Street") as the Henchman

1994/5 - "Dick Whittington" - Starring Jimmy Cricket

1995/6 - "Aladdin" - Starring Timmy Mallett (ITV's "Wacaday, Wide-a-wake Club") as Aladdin

1996/7 - "Cinderella" - Starring Jess Conrad as Prince Charming and Bernie Clifton as Buttons

1997/8 - "Babes In the Wood" - (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Paul Leyshon ("Hollyoaks, Cavegirl") as Robin Hood, Hugo Myatt (ITV's "Knightmare") as the Sheriff of Nottingham and the Roly Polys as the Merry Men

1998/9 - "Jack and the Beanstalk" - (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Colin Baker ("Dr Who, The Brothers") as Dame Durden. With Rod, Jane & Freddy (ITV's "Rainbow")

1999/0 - "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" - (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Jacinta Stapleton ("Neighbours"' Amy Greenwood) as Snow White and Paul Ladlow as the Wicked Queen. Also featured Mike McCabe and Sandy Martin (BBC Radio Swindon).

2000/1 - "Aladdin" - (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Aleetza Wood ("Home and Away's" Peta Janossi) as Aladdin, Geoff Hinsliff ("Coronation Street's" Don Brennan) as Widow Twanky, Bobby Dazzler as Wishee Washee and Juliette Kaplan ("Last of the Summer Wine's" Pearl) as the Empress of China. Also featured Tweedy & Alexis as Ping and Pong.

2001/2 - "Cinderella" - (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Emma Willis ("Grange Hill" & "Mile High") as Cinderella, Bernie Clifton as Buttons, Pollyann Tanner as Dandini and Paul Mead as Baron Hardup. Also featured Rod, Jane & Freddy (ITV's Rainbow)

2002/3 - "Dick Whittington" - (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Geoffrey Hayes (ITV's "Rainbow") as Simple Simon, Pollyann Tanner as Dick, Hugo Myatt (ITV's "Knightmare") as King Rat and Colin Baker ("Dr. Who, The Brothers") as Sarah the Cook

2003/4 - "Goldilocks and the Three Bears" - (Charles Vance Productions) Starring Vicky Binns ("Emmerdale's" Ollie Reynolds, "Cavegirl" & "Coronation Street's" Molly Compton) as Goldilocks, Howard Taylor (Wiltshire's GWR-FM) as the Ringmaster. With Ross Davidson ("Eastenders"' Andy O'Brien & "Hollyoaks′" Andy Morgan), Tweedy & Alexis, Liam Dolan (ITV's "Diggin' It") and Roger Royle (BBC Radio 2) as Dame Dolly. With Amanda Sandow, Alfie the Alligator and Willy Wyvern.

2004/5 - "Jack and the Beanstalk" - (One from the Heart production) Starring Juliette Kaplan as the Fairy, Paul Bradley ("Eastenders"' Nigel Bates & "Holby City's" Elliot Hope) as Fleshcreep, Jo Martell & Kelly Edwards as Jill and Daniel Boys (BBC TV's "Any Dream Will Do") as Jack

2005/6 - "Peter Pan" - (One from the Heart production) Starring Steven Pinder ("Crossroads"' Roy Lambert & "Brookside's" Max Farnham) as Captain Hook and Daniel Boys (BBC TV's "Any Dream Will Do") as Peter Pan

2006/7 - No Show due to the discovery of asbestos as the venue and the subsequent closure of the building. Had the pantomime gone ahead it would have been "Cinderella" starring ex-Bond girl Britt Ekland; this would be staged the following year.

2007/8 - "Cinderella" - (One from the Heart production) Starring Britt Ekland (James Bond - "The Man with the Golden Gun") as Fairy Godmother and it also included her very own Chihuahua, Tequila.

2008/9 pantomime was announced to be "Aladdin"

Haunted Theatre

Like many buildings and especially theatres, the Wyvern has its fair share of ghost stories, over the years many people have reported that a super natural presence walks the corridors of the building. A 1970s theatre in the middle of Swindon might not be a traditional location for a paranormal investigation, but following eyewitness accounts of unusual activity Paranormal Site Investigators (PSI) went to research the allegedly haunted building on the 9/7/2005.

The Wyvern has its fair share of ghostly connections for a modern building. One of the theatre's original staff members resigned to pursue a career in spiritual mediumship. In its early days, a psychical research centre stood a stone’s throw from the theatre – situated in the congregational church where the British Computing Society offices now stand. More important, however, are the occasional sightings of 'ghostly black figures' running across the stage and stairs.

Eleven investigators conducted an over-night research session at the Wyvern on Saturday 9th September. Perceived activity included light anomalies, moving shadows, the feeling of being touched, anomalous voices heard, heat fluctuations and shadowy figures running across the stage. In all, 54 experiences were reported throughout the night. The auditorium saw most reports, closely followed by the lighting studio. The prop room and dance studios saw a few reports of possible ghost-like activity, while the green room and network of corridors saw little or none.

Over two thirds of sightings were only reported by one investigator at a time, and were therefore discounted as possible hallucination. Nearly one-fifth of experiences were subjective but verified, that is unusual occurrences coincided with significant equipment readings. Finally, 15% of experiences were perceived by more than one investigator.

Verified experiences were analysed against potential extraneous factors. That is, they were compared to natural occurrences that could explain the usual experience. Three investigators saw unusual lights moving across the stairs in the auditorium across a few minutes, and there were numerous accounts of more than one person seeing shadowy figures crossing the theatre stage.

Two investigators saw a light switch apparently switching itself on, which was verified by video evidence. while these experiences were unusual and not easily explainable, primed expectation, group hallucination and electrical fault could not be ruled out.

The investigation team was armed with photographic and environmental monitoring equipment, including: ultrasonic sound detectors, anemometers, negative ion detectors, electromagnetic field meters, spot temperature gauges, and gauges for ambient temperature, humidity and air pressure.

Five cases of 'significant' fluctuation from the baseline were recorded. while three were ruled out, two units were further analysed. A 20 minute period saw a room’s humidity increase from 51% to 61% while reported unusual experiences increased significantly. while this cannot be easily explained, no causal link was obvious. Secondly, when an investigator reported a cold presence over their hand, no drafts were reported and equipment showed that hand to be significantly colder than the other did for a period of 30 seconds.

The investigation racked up hours of video evidence and audio evidence (in electrovoice or EVP experiments) while hundreds of photographs were taken.

while video and audio evidence revealed little activity, 34 photographs contained anomalous images. Audited light factors potentially accounted for more than half these images, while equipment proximity, moisture, dust and reflection seemed to account for the rest.

Finally, PSI’s mediums established numerous pieces of information. while historical records were not sufficiently complete to marry up most of the information, two significantly accurate pieces remained. One assertion cannot be revealed for ethical reasons. The other saw a medium report the death of a young builder during the construction of the theatre, which was corroborated afterwards by interviewees who recalled the death. It should be noted that information picked up by mediums cannot be scientifically grounded.

The Wyvern theatre investigation saw an above average amount of potentially 'ghostly' activity, especially for such a new building. while all the evidence had to be discounted, PSI cannot say for certain that the Wyvern is not haunted. What is clear is that science needs to become more advanced before we can really understand what is going on.

Ghost busters once again were called upon to stake out the Wyvern Theatre on Saturday 7th April 2007 to find out what was making things go bump in the night. Organiser Nicky Sewell said: "We are currently investigating the haunted heritage of the town and are interested in historical cases, recent cases and 'live' cases.

"We are keen for anyone who has had ghostly experiences in Swindon to come forward."

Investigators used a whole range of equipment to try to find factual reasons behind people experiencing a cold sensation at the theatre.

The team of scientists from the Swindon based Paranormal Site Investigators (PSI)were the same team who studied the 1970s theatre back in 2005, but ultrasound, negative ion, electromagnetic field, temperature, humidity and air pressure tests revealed that most of the unusual phenomena could be explained by light or dust.

The ghostly saga continues....

"Curtain Fells On A Charmer"

From the Swindon Advertiser, first published Monday 7th March 2005.

"The man who greeted the stars for 34 years has marked his retirement with style. Derek McCarthy began working at the Wyvern Theatre only a fortnight after it opened in 1971. As stage doorman he was responsible for meeting and greeting the actors and actresses and showing them to the dressing rooms.

Among the stars he met during his time at the theatre were Ken Dodd, Danny La Rue and Maggie and John Larsen. Derek, 79, of Queensfield in Kingsdown, origin-ally worked as a railway clerk in Swindon. He said: "I was made redundant and then they found me a job as a clerk at Paddington Station. "I would come back to Swindon in the evening and go straight to the Wyvern, change my clothes and carry on working. "I met Ken Dodd through working there. I got on with him very well. He was good for a laugh." At first Derek worked backstage but later became stage doorman. He said: "I had to speak to them all backstage. As stage doorman I booked them in, greeted them and gave them a dressing room."

Nick Shaw, the theatre's general manager, is sad to see him go. He said: "Derek is one of those larger than life characters you can only find in a theatre. "He was kind and helpful and well loved by people who came to visit the theatre, especially amateurs. "He's one of those people who actually wanted to be at work. He was genuinely part of the fabric of the building and certainly made my life a lot easier." Mr Shaw said that talking to Derek was so interesting it would often distract him from his own work. He said: "It was easy to sit and talk to Derek for hours because I would learn so much about Swindon, its people and this building. He genuinely is a font of information. He tells stories with a unique turn of phrase."

The Summer Youth Project

1994 - "Bugsy"

1995 - "Annie"

1996 - "42nd Street"

1997 - "My Fair Lady"

1998 - "Oliver!"

1999 - "Me and My Girl"

2000 - "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat"

2001 - "Crazy for You"

2002 - "West Side Story"

2003 - "Fame"

2004 - "The Sound of Music"

2005 - "Guys and Dolls"

2006 - "Annie"

2007 - No Show due to the discovery of asbestos as the venue and the subsequent closure of the building. Had the Youth Project gone ahead it would have been "Oliver!".

2008 - "Oliver!"

Willy Wyvern

The Wyvern Theatre has its very own mascot in the form of a large 6' green dragon like creature known as Willy the Wyvern.

Willy the Wyvern became the theatre's mascot in its founding years but sadly faded into obscurity for over two decades. In 2001 Willy was reborn and made a welcome and overdue return to the theatre just in time to celebrate its 30th anniversary. Willy even boasted his own fan club and made appearances in no less than 3 of the Wyvern's Christmas pantomimes. More often seen in the foyer of the theatre before and during the interval of Children's shows but you could never quite be sure where Willy Wyvern would pop up next!

In late 2004 Willy sadly dropped out of the public eye once again, it seemed that he had moved on and had been forgotten about...or had he?


External links

* [http://www.wyverntheatre.org.uk Theatre website]

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