Award-winning volunteers keep NPDC venue ticking

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The smiling faces who greet you at shows and events at NPDC venues are mostly volunteers – and some of them have been giving up their time to welcome you for half a century.

The longest-serving Friends of the Opera House were given the Volunteering Team Award (2022) at the Volunteer Recognition Awards announced on Saturday.

Anne Aitchison, David Thorpe, Cath Robinson, Viv Baty, Sue Thorpe, Delwyn Singh and Jan Goss have each been volunteering for more than 50 years.

They are part of the group of 90 core Friends who provide most of the front of house services at the TSB Showplace, and sometimes other council venues.

More than half of them have been volunteering for more than five years and were also acknowledged at the awards with a Long-Service Certificate.

The annual Volunteer Recognition Awards are held by Volunteering New Plymouth.

TSB Showplace manager Sam Ryan says the Friends are the ‘life and soul’ of the theatre.

“The history and knowledge they collectively share along with a genuine passion for the arts is something really special.

“I’m honoured to be involved with a venue that means so much to community and it really wouldn’t exist today without a little help from our Friends.”

He said being recognised at the Volunteer Awards was timely, as this year marks 50 years since the Friends were formalised as a group. They were self-managed until 2018 when they asked NPDC to help out.

Cath Robinson, 75, has been volunteering with the Friends since she was 17.

“We greet and seat patrons, and see that they have a lovely night, and if there’s any problems, we help sort those out.”

“We do it because of our love of theatre,” she says.

It’s a devotion shared by many of her fellow volunteers, and in the 70s saved the Showplace from demolition – with Friends even mortgaging their own homes to rescue the building.

“That’s how staunch we are. That’s how much we love the theatre.”

They also love having the opportunity to contribute to the arts and the community.

“It’s giving back to the community to help someone as a volunteer.”

Plus, it’s a good time.

“We have a lot of fun, we enjoy it!”

Become a volunteer
Find out more about how to volunteer at the TSB Showplace and other NPDC venues on the New Plymouth Event Venues website

TSB Showplace Fast Facts:

  • The TSB Showplace is the region’s main theatre and conference venue.
  • Built in 1925, it was originally named the New Plymouth Opera House.
  • In 1998 the building was renovated and extended, adding a second auditorium, the Theatre Royal (527 capacity), and the Alexandra Room (200 capacity).
  • Around 52,000 people go to the TSB Showplace each year to see comedy, musicals, plays, classical concerts and more.
  • The main auditorium is the TSB Theatre (the original and gorgeously restored 1920’s Opera House) has a capacity of 957.
  • To be the first to know about event announcements, exclusive offers and discounts, special experiences and news from the venue sign up to our newsletter.


  • Volunteers at TSB Showplace.
  • Some of the Friends of the Opera House’s long-serving volunteers from left Anne Aitchison, David Thorpe, volunteer coordinator Jacob Waterman, Cath Robinson, Viv Baty, Sue Thorpe and Delwyn Singh.