THE oldest working theatre in the UK is launching a fundraising appeal to secure its future as it marks its triple anniversary.

The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire, is desperately seeking funding to help it stay as a performance venue.

On Wednesday it will launch an appeal to raise £122,500 from donations – made up of a target of ten donations of £10,000, 50 donations of £225 and 225 donations of £50.

The theatre is this year celebrating 225 years since it was built; 50 years since it was re-opened as a theatre after being used as a wine store and auction house; and ten years since it was fully restored following a Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

But staff and volunteers fear that without vital support from the local community it will not be sustainable as a professional performance venue.

Chief executive Warnock Kerr said while the theatre is not making a loss, because it can only seat around 200 people per performance it does not generate enough income from ticket and bar sales alone to cover overheads as well as performance costs.

He said: “We used to get a lot of money from the Arts Council and the county, district and town councils but they do not have the budgets they once did for arts grants, and at the same time people who come to the theatre cannot afford to come as often as they once did.”

Sheila Russell, one of the 138 volunteers helping to run the theatre, who has been involved for more than 40 years, said the passion to keep the theatre going runs deep.

“We have to keep the theatre alive because it gives people so much pleasure,” she said.

Chairman of the trustees, Mac Bryant, said: “It does feel like a huge responsibility but we feel that it is not our theatre, we are just protecting it for future generations – and with a 180-member youth theatre we are certainly catering for the next generation.”

To donate, use the text donate service by texting TGTR01 £5/£10/£25 to 70070, visit the website or call the box office on 01748-823710.