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Rosemary Chambers - a tribute

Tuesday, 18 May 2021

In 1990, the NYMT created a new music theatre work called OCTOBER'S CHILDREN, which enjoyed considerable critical success when it opened at the Leeds International Arts Festival in May before playing for 17 performances on the Edinburgh International programme in 1990. The production then was honoured with an invitation to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre's Winter Festival in February 1991in the magnificent Swan Theatre and finally played for a week at Sadler's Wells in March.

In the cast of October's Children, a small but important role was played by a 13 year old called Tom Chambers who then waited for three years before re-auditioning for the company when he found himself cast into another new work called PENDRAGON which enjoyed considerable success on the Edinburgh Fringe in 1994, so much so that it was invited back the following February to play for a week at the brand new and spectacular 2000 seater Edinburgh Festival Theatre. 

The theatre was happy to cover the costs of the production itself for the run but the NYMT needed to find funds to cover the not inconsiderable expense of finding accommodation, food and travel for the 50 strong company. At the same time, PENDRAGON had also received an invitation to tour to festivals in Hong Kong and Taiwan that August which, for all the honour and prestige it would bring, would also incur further financial burden. It was clear that extra sponsorship was needed by the NYMT.

It was decided to write personally to the parents of every single family who had children performing in any of that year's productions in the hope of finding possible sponsors for these prestigious events with all the coverage and public exposure that would accompany it.

We received just one reply.

Rosemary Chambers, Tom's mother, whose father, Michael Thornton, had founded a successful chocolate company, was happy to offer help - an offer that was gratefully accepted. Little did we know then what an extraordinary influence it was to have on the future of the company.

For the next six years, long after Tom had moved on from the NYMT and won a place at the Guildford School of Acting (later to win Strictly Come Dancing and become a major musical theatre and dramatic leading man), the Thornton's support quietly and faithfully continued to 'help when needed' enabling projects to happen which, without that extra cushion of sponsorship would have had to stay on the shelf. THE BEGGAR'S OPERA would never have played at the RSC's Swan Theatre in 1977, THE RAGGED CHILD would never have been the first company ever to tour into the new Glyndebourne Opera House in 1999 and, most important of all, the triumphant seven week long West End season of BUGSY MALONE at the Queen's Theatre in 1997/8 would never have happened were it not for the extraordinarily generous sum she invested in the project. (The production re-cooped every penny) 

She happily agreed to sit on the NYMT's Fund-raising Advisory Group and served for four years with great skill and judgment.

Rosemary's support, both financial and in person for the company - she never missed a performance - was phenomenal. Equally typical was the quiet and confidential support she gave to numerous individuals who needed that bit extra to cover their course fees.

She never sought attention or the spotlight and there are literally thousands of young performers and technicians, musicians and stage management who, though they probably never met her, owe much to her for what she contributed to allow the NYMT and all those young contributors to flourish and continue to grow.

Rosemary sadly lost her battle to breast cancer on April 6th. She will be hugely missed and our condolences go to Stuart her husband, Tom and the rest of her extended family.

Thank you Rosie, from us all. You will be greatly missed.

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Jeremy James Taylor, OBE Founder

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