Was it a bumper year for panto and ice rink… oh yes it was!

Olympian Louis Smith
PROPOSING ON ICE: Romance was alive and well in town, too!

Skate TW – the town’s annual ice rink in Calverley Grounds – broke office ticket sales.

And not only was the ice rink a record-breaking success, but ticket sales for this year’s production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at the Assembly Hall Theatre, starring Strictly judge Shirley Ballas, almost beat the previous record set by Aladdin in 2017.

While the Council says it hasn’t finalised totting up just how much cash the two events generated, it told the Times the panto was the ‘second highest grossing of all time, just behind Aladdin’ and that the ice rink sales surpassed previous years by a ‘large margin’.

In 2019, the previous record year, more than 40,000 skaters took to the ice, which generated around £60,000 for the Town Hall’s coffers.

Not only was Skate ‘21 a roaring success for the Council, it helped break the ice for one romantic couple.

Callum Allan from Battle popped the question to long-term girlfriend Samantha Polley on December 27, seven years after they went on their first date at the ice rink.

She said ‘yes’.

“We went on our first date there when we were both 15, and Sam was very surprised when I insisted we stay on the ice for a bit longer,” said Callum, 22.

“She was also annoyed with me at first because it was raining! But she was in tears when I went down on one knee and proposed, and I am happy to say that she said ‘yes’.”

But Christmas was not such a happy event elsewhere in the UK. According to reports, prior to the pandemic, 2019-2020 panto ticket sales across the country amounted to £65.4million, but the last three weeks of 2021 had seen an overall drop of 30 per cent in revenue compared with 2019.

Cllr Jane March, The Council’s head of Culture and Leisure, said she was delighted Tunbridge Wells survived the national theatre crisis so well.

“After such a challenging year it was wonderful to see that so many people were able to enjoy Skate and a visit to see Snow White at the Assembly Hall Theatre,” she said.

“I know the staff were delighted to welcome so many families back to the theatre and they worked hard to ensure everyone had a great time in as safe a way as possible.

“More people than ever visited the ice rink and gave Calverley Grounds a real buzz! Let’s hope this positive start is a good sign for the rest of 2022.”



FOLLOWING the success of this year’s pantomime, Assembly Hall Director, JJ (John- Jackson) Almond who helped produce this year’s show, has stepped down from his role.

It is understood he will now join the Ambassador Theatre Group (AGT) as Theatre Director of the Grand Opera House in York.

He arrived at the Council-owned venue in 2016 and not only oversaw this year’s pantomime success, but also helped in the battle with Covid-19 when the venue became a mass-testing centre during the height of the pandemic last winter.

Nicky Carter, Head of HR, Customer Service & Culture at Tunbridge Wells Borough Council, said technical director Mikey Powell will be acting theatre director until a replacement is found.

She said: “Mikey will do a great job and the theatre is in safe hands. We were very sad to see JJ go and we all wish him well in his new post.”

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