A HANDFUL of lucky winners won a free backstage theatre tour as a 'thank you' for buying a lottery ticket.

The local ticket-holders were invited to the Darlington Hippodrome for a tour of the refurbished building and a chance to meet Zoe Birkett, who will play Princess Jasmine in this year's pantomime production of Aladdin.

The Hippodrome owes thanks to money donated from the Heritage Lottery Fund which helped restore the former Civic Theatre.

As part of a National Lottery #ThanksToYou campaign, The Hippodrome is one of many organisations offering free treats for lottery players over Christmas.

Lynda Winstanley, Theatre Director at Darlington Hippodrome, said: "The Heritage Lottery Fund supports hundreds of projects throughout the country.

"The Hippodrome received five million pounds for its restoration so we were keen to take part in the campaign."

Zoe Birkett said: “For me the first thing I appreciated in the restoration is the space we have on and off the stage, which means bigger shows, like rock of Ages, can stop in Darlington and bring better business for the town.

“Our town is small but strong, I’ve always said that. Getting funding for our arts gives more opportunities for bigger things for Darlington.”