An historic theatre has announced its Christmas panto for this year - and just as importantly has also launched its accompanying knitting appeal. 

The annual panto at Richmond’s Georgian Theatre Royal has gained a reputation as one of the region’s top festive events, but equally popular is the celebrated knitting activity that is as much part of the action as the show itself.

Each year, hundreds of knitted objects are incorporated into the panto, sometimes as ‘missiles’ to be hurled by the audience at a specific point of the action or as quirky front of house decorations.

Read more: The worst areas for this big driving offence in the UK - and two are in North East

This year, the theatre is appealing for knitted or crocheted fish, which will be used during the 58 performances of Pinocchio, taking place between December 2 and January 8.

The theatre’s knitting tradition first started more than a decade ago, when over 1,000 bananas were knitted for the 2011 production of The Adventures of Sinbad.

Countless snowballs, leaves, apples, doughnuts, patchwork squares have followed, culminating in last year’s hearts that were used in Beauty and the Beast.

All have been enthusiastically knitted by members of the community, as well as contributions from across the UK and abroad.

Clare Allen, theatre chief executive and director of Pinocchio, said: “The knitting element is such an important part of panto and in recent months people have been asking what the item will be.

"In fact, the announcement of the knitted item is more eagerly anticipated than the reveal of the pantomime itself.

“It is a fantastic way for the community to get involved in the run up to the show and we hear reports of knitting being taken on holiday or to workplaces to liven up lunch hours.

Read more: Richmond Georgian Theatre Royal reopens for guided tours

"In fact, one of our volunteers knit all the way to Australia and back.”

What started as a fairly local enterprise has since widened its reach and contributions come in from the far north of Scotland to the south coast of England, as well as from international locations such as Finland, Norway and New Zealand.

Earlier this year, the theatre received a letter from a lady in Morayshire with a simple message: “Do you need any more knitting doing?

"I have plenty of wool and plenty of time.”

Clare said: “We are incredibly grateful to everyone who knits for us and it doesn’t matter if people knit one item or dozens.

"Each and every one is appreciated and cherished."

Once the pantomime is over, the theatre makes sure that new homes are found for the knitted objects.

Last year’s knitted hearts were donated to seven local nurseries and playgroups to make displays and also for use in counting and sorting activities.

Other recipients from previous years have included the RSPB nature reserve at Saltholme for their yarn bombing displays, as well as church groups.

A fish knitting pattern can be picked up from the Box Office or downloaded from the panto page on the Theatre’s website.

Alternatively, people can make up their own designs and all colours and sizes are welcomed.

Finished fish should be handed in at the Box Office or posted to arrive at the Theatre by Saturday, November 26.

Tickets for Pinnochio cost from £13 and are available from the Box Office on 01748 825252 or via the online booking service

Read next: 

If you want to read more great stories, why not subscribe to your Northern Echo for as little as £1.25 a week. Click here