The Criterion Theatre is a charitable organisation located in the heart of Earlsdon. We own our theatre building which seats 122 people and have been producing theatrical entertainment of the highest quality for over 60 years, ever since our founder members set up the Criterion Players in 1955.
We are a 200-strong repertory theatre company made up entirely of volunteers. We have a deep sense of community ethos and identification with Coventry as our home. We benefit from our long history and this enables us to pass on the skills we have gained, whether they be technical, performance or front of house to everyone who joins so that they quickly become a part of the ‘wider Criterion family’. Anyone can become a member of the Criterion Theatre. Membership falls into two categories - Member and Company. There is no limit to how many members can join and no entry requirement. Alongside the repertory Company, we have 400 Club members, many of whom also provide a variety of support roles in the Theatre (i.e. Box Office, Coffee Bar, Front of House).
In 2004 the renowned actor Ron Cook, and ex-member of the Criterion became the patron of the Theatre.
There are usually 7 main house and 2 studio productions each year, plus visits from other theatre groups, musicians and performers. The Company also runs workshops for experienced and non-experienced members and Saturday morning classes for children aged 7 to 16 years.
The Criterion relies on the effort and time of volunteers. There are no paid employees. Much time and effort has been invested in recent years to make the Criterion an important part of the local community of Earlsdon as well as providing quality theatre to a wider audience.
In 1955 a small group of people who belonged to a local church dramatic society in Coventry formed the Criterion Players. 1959 the Players heard that the Methodist Sunday School in Earlsdon was being vacated and decided it would be ideal for their new theatre.
Money raising efforts were intensified and thanks to the generosity and selflessness of some members a mortgage was arranged. In 1960 the sale was finally completed and the Players set about converting the building into a theatre. In 1961 our Patron Mr S. H. Newshome who was then Managing Director of the Coventry Theatre officially opened the Criterion.
Since then the Criterion has staged over 450 productions two of which have been world premieres. Members of the Company have played over 6,000 parts and crewed 8,000 backstage roles in Criterion productions.
On average every play takes about 50 people backstage and front of house to produce and staff. That means over 22,000 support roles have been undertaken by local people.
In 1881 the Earlsdon Methodist Church set up a building trust to construct a permanent home for worship.
By the next year the trust had enough money to start and a plot of land was bought by Robert Waddington, a watch manufacturer living on Earlsdon Avenue South.
A young architect, William Tomlinson of Moor Street was commissioned to design a suitable building, and after another year of fund raising, the Church advertised for tenders, and chose Mr Beecham of Allesley for 800.00. The average man's wage was about 28 or 30 shillings a week at this time.
On Easter Tuesday, 15th April, 1884, the stone-laying ceremony took place and in the actual words of one of the Trustees: 'It was a gloriously fine day. The village was gay with flags and buntings, and the school children with the school banners floating above theirs heads, were assembled on a raised platform. A large company from the city of Coventry and the neighbourhood gathered together for this red-letter day in the history of Earlsdon.'
Coventry's two Members of Parliament, Messrs. Eaton and Wills were present, laid stones, gave speeches and donations, after which tea was served in a marquee on the school grounds, then there were more speeches, hymns, prayers and of course, the collecting of funds, the total amount coming to 122 6s 0d.
The new building was brought into use before it was completely ready, due to a gas explosion which badly damaged the temporary home of the church. However, it served the congregation for 39 years as Earlsdon's Methodist Church until being replaced by new buildings on the corner of Albany Rd and Earlsdon Avenue South in 1923.
The old Chapel continued in use as a Sunday School and served the community as a whole as a venue for bazaars, fetes, concerts, meetings of all sorts, a sports dressing room, a youth club, centre for scouts and guides, even during the last war as an army base.
Later the chapel functioned as an annexe for the day school. In 1960 it was finally vacated by the Methodists and bought by the Criterion Theatre where it has served to entertain a wider audience than just the local community since.
The volunteers at the heart of our theatre.
A large number of people volunteer their time and effort for our Theatre. Some of these positions are constitutionally elected but most are not. Please find below the roles, names and relevant contact information for key volunteers.
Elected Board of Trustees
Chair: Jon Elves firstname.lastname@example.org
Artistic Director: Anne-marie Greene: email@example.com
Publicity Director (Co-opted): Chris Firth firstname.lastname@example.org
Treasurer: Barbara Sowerby email@example.com
Customer Experience Director: Nicole Firth firstname.lastname@example.org
Facilities Director: currently vacant email@example.com
Company Secretary: Simon Sharpe firstname.lastname@example.org
Fundraising Director: Judy Sharpe email@example.com
President: Keith Railton firstname.lastname@example.org
General information: email@example.com
Box Office: firstname.lastname@example.org
Accounts payable, invoices etc: email@example.com
Drama Classes: firstname.lastname@example.org
Youth Theatre: email@example.com
To discuss how supporting the Criterion Theatre can work with your company's strategy, please click here.
The Criterion Theatre is proud to be a member of the Little Theatre Guild (LTG).
The LTG has been in existence since 1946 to represent the views of amateur theatres across the UK. Membership of the LTG is open only to those amateur theatres that own or lease the theatre premises in which their productions are mounted. Currently the LTG has over 100 member theatres right across the United Kingdom, ranging from 64 seat auditorium up to 450 seat auditorium.
The LTG holds regional and national conferences to which we send delegates and we also participate in regional meetings and events. The LTG is a useful source of information and networking, and also puts on specialist events and courses in a wide array of on stage and back stage skills. An annual yearbook is produced containing information about all the member theatres and their seasons in the past year, plus there are regular newsletters.
More information about the LTG can be found on their website.
Each member theatre has an LTG representative. At the Criterion, this is Andrew Sharpe who can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
News from the Criterion Theatre LTG rep
Central Region Production Diary
There are a number of LTG member theatres in easy driving distance. Find information about all their productions and events by visiting the LTG Central Region Production Diary