Chester Mystery Plays

Aug 29, 2023 | Trust News

The Ursula Keyes Trust supported Chester Mystery Plays this year and helped to plug the gap in a shortfall of funding originally requested from Arts Council England. Chester Mystery Plays (CMP) did receive funding from the Arts Council later but it was 30% of the original request.

As belts tighten all over the UK, fundraising has become even more difficult. CMP was no exception replying on a mix of ticket sales and donations to be able to put the play on once every five years.  This year’s Chester Mystery Plays have been universally agreed a great success with 4 and 5 star reviews in local and national press.

Chris Walton, Business & Project Manager of the 2023 Chester Mystery Plays said; “Without the generosity and goodwill of our sponsors and private donors Chester Mystery Plays would simply not have been possible.  Despite the cast of over 250 actors, musicians, singers and dancers and another 100 in the background, all volunteers from the local community, the cost of staging these Plays is enormous.”

Euan Elliott, a Trustee of the Ursula Keyes Trust, said; “We heard about the risk to funding for Chester Mystery Plays and were delighted to step in as soon as we could. We have supported past cycles of the Chester Mystery Plays as they are so important for the City but this time we were keen to give more than we had previously. I’m sure our founder Ursula Keyes would have supported us in this decision. Her father founded and developed The Royalty Theatre and later became Sheriff, Alderman and later Lord Mayor of the city.”

Ursula Keyes Trust donated £10,000 alongside others including Arts Council England, The Earl of Chester’s Fund and many other private donors to ensure CMP went ahead. It is a great example of what can be achieved when private, public and community organisations work together and individual contributions are valued.

Ian Sanderson, Chairman of Chester Mystery Plays added; “We are most grateful to The Ursula Keyes Trust for its kind support and generosity. The funds really made a difference. Chester Mystery Plays are a national treasure and a true community event which allow Chester to punch well above its weight and beyond any boundaries.”

A Brief Outline of the Chester Mystery Plays

Keeping History Alive and Well

The Chester Mystery Plays form a spectacular festival presented mainly by members of the local community under professional direction. This rare production has become a much anticipated highlight in the British arts calendar, attracting people from all over the world. One of the largest community events in the UK, hundreds of enthusiasts of all ages from throughout the area make up the cast, crew and the support teams working in administration/marketing and front of house.

The 2018 and 2023 plays were performed in the nave of Chester Cathedral during June and July. Audiences and critics gave the 2023 plays outstanding reviews. More information here.


Photos: Pamela Raith Photography 2023.