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Fire at Opera House

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Image Credit: John Robinson

A fire broke out on stage at York’s Grand Opera House on the afternoon of last Wednesday, 24 April,
cancelling that evening’s performance of the rock jukebox musical Rock of Ages. The blaze began following that afternoon’s matinee performance, after a glitch in the electrical lighting caused the curtains to catch fire, according to North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue.

The theatre posted a statement on social media at 6:08pm that evening advising that the next performance would not go ahead due to ‘an incident at the theatre’, and that emergency services
were attending. Hose reels and a ventilation fan were used by the four attending fire crews to extinguish the flames. While nobody was injured, the fire caused damage to the curtains and cabling insulation.

The fire was discovered by Phil Bell, a cleaner at the Opera House. He told the York Press that it was a chance of fate that he discovered the fire, as by that point he usually would have already completed his cleaning routine, however due to the cast being sat in the Dress Circle between performances he had to stay later to clean that area once they had left. Mr Bell smelt smoke after he had come back in after taking the rubbish out, and after walking closer to the stage he discovered the flames, alerting the
theatre’s technical manager Mark Waters and stage manager Lisa Cameron. Fire crews were called to the theatre at 5:40pm. Mr Bell said that “If I’d not been there, I think the whole lot could have gone up.”
Celestine Dubruel, a spokesperson for the Grand Opera House, thanked Mr Bell for his swift action, saying that “It was controlled very quickly and we are very grateful nobody was injured and there was little damage.”

General Manager Rachel Lane told Minster FM that she was “incredibly proud” of the theatre’s team for how they responded, and that the visiting Rock of Ages company had “equally been fantastic throughout this.” Ms Lane added that the support they’d received from their neighbours had been “fantastic”, adding “this city and the way it pulls together is fantastic ... everyone nearby has been terrific.”

For much of Thursday it was not known whether that evening’s performance would go ahead, with the theatre finally announcing at just gone 3pm that it would go ahead as scheduled. Regarding the postponed performance, in a statement the theatre advised that “Customers who had tickets for [Wednesday’s] cancelled performance will be contacted by our Box Office/Ticketing Centre regarding re-scheduling for another Rock Of Ages performance or refunds.” Given the production is currently touring the country an additional performance at York was not possible.

Customers on social media heaped praise onto the theatre’s staff, with one commenting “Glad everyone is safe and hope the incident is rectified soon”, while another said that they were “So
pleased to hear everyone is ok, that’s the main thing.” The theatre thanked customers for their understanding.

In addition to the fire, staff arrived on Saturday to find the window of the Box Office had also been smashed by a “drunkard”, according to Ticketing and Sales Manager Jay Edevane.

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