As Darlington Hippodrome prepares for a change of leadership, Nick Gullon speaks to outgoing director Lynda Winstanley and new boss Heather Tarran-Jones

"I HAVE been very fortunate to have a job where I love coming to work every day."

Lynda Winstanley's take on her 35-year career is one we all wish we can one day share.

The Northern Echo:

Last week might have marked the end of her reign as director of Darlington Hippodrome, but as we chat in the cafe of the newly-refurbished building, her love of theatre shows no sign of disappearing.

"The years have gone by in the blink of an eye, I can’t really believe where the years have gone," she says.

"I live in Darlington so I'll very much be an enthusiastic member of the audience and I have got a new grandchild so I’ll be brining him to The Hullabaloo and the theatre later on,"

She has many highlights from the stage to choose from.

The Northern Echo:

"In terms of my favourite show, I have to mention the show that was on during the first week I began working here in 1983, which was a musical One Mo’ Time staring the Hollywood singer and actor Clarke Peters.

"That’s when I really fell in love with theatre that week. I couldn’t really believe I was going to be paid to sit and watch a show, but obviously there was more to it than that.

"My favourite pantomime was probably my first panto here which was Peter Pan, staring David Yip, who was in a very popular TV show called The Chinese Detective at the time.

The Northern Echo:

"He was cast in that against normal pantomime casting because Peter Pan was normally played by a woman, and in this instance he was played by a man, so it was unusual but a great show and I really enjoyed that."

Among the many stars she has rubbed shoulders with over the decades, Lynda names Mickey Rooney and her "all time hero" Andy Fairweather Low from the 1960s band Amen Corner (who sent her a special leaving message by video) as highlights.

She also received a special farewell from none other than Orville the Duck.

"It was a happy memory actually, because the year Keith Harris and Orville were in pantomime here, my daughter was one of the juvenile dancers in the pantomime that year, and she insists Orville was able to come in their dressing room independently of Keith, which I think was true because he had an robotic Orville as well."

The Northern Echo:

Heather Tarran-Jones will take over from Lynda, and she knows all to well the importance of carrying on her predecessor's legacy.

"We are one of the key buildings in Darlington – when people think of Darlington they think of the Hippodrome or Civic as it was, and we continue to be at the heart of the people of Darlington, and the wider region as well.

"We don’t want to lose those audiences who have been very dedicated to us, so we don’t want to move totally into the world of technology because we don’t want to alienate people, but we’re already looking at new ways of promoting the shows."

Lynda will undoubtedly be remembered the most for overseeing the £13m restoration and transformation of the Civic to the Hippodrome in 2015. In that time, she has seen the role of theatre change in the town, but its importance remains unchanged.

"It would be fair to say I was really sad when the Arts Centre closed, however from that grew some wonderful things that would not have happened.

"So without that there would have not have been Creative Darlington, The Hullabaloo or Darlington for Culture, which became a fantastic partner in the aftermath.

"So sometimes when times seemed dark, there was light on the horizon."

Lynda has only one regret about retiring now.

The Northern Echo:

"The theatre under Heather’s leadership is going to be able to make a big contribution to the bid to the Tees Valley City of Culture and also will contribute greatly to the plans for the fantastically exciting bicentenary of the railway in 2025.

"That’s one of my regrets that I would have liked to have been part of that.

"I did say to Heather she’ll have to try and outdo my 36 years."

"I'll just try to pip her to 36, that would annoy her," said Heather.

She adds: "I am beside myself with excitement, it is a real honour to be taking over from someone like Lynda.

"It is a fantastic opportunity for me, although I’ve been here for a long time this is a new challenge for me and I am very passionate about continuing succeed in the way Lynda has."