Downton Abbey star Thomas Howes talks about his favourite things about his home town Doncaster
Born in Woodlands, Thomas Howes began his career at the Doncaster Little Theatre, but he is now a Screen Actor's Guild Award-winning actor of stage and screen. He has also launched his own theatre company.
I always go and have a wander round here whenever I’m home, it’s the most fantastic place. My dad was always very impressed that we have such a great market in Donny, it’s not the sort of place you get just anywhere, it’s always winning awards, and we’re very lucky to have it. I always have a plate of prawns and vinegar when I’m there, it’s a very Donny thing.
On Cusworth Hall
It used to be very exciting to me as a kid on school trips to head up through the village, round the little entrance, and up through the trees, going through those trees to find the Hall always seemed very magical to me.
One of my favourite theatrical experiences was having the great treat of directing and performing `A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ there in 2012, open-air promenade - the only time I’ve ever done that. I was playing Theseus and Oberon. It rained throughout the dress rehearsal , we were absolutely sodden, but it miraculously got sunny for all four performances, and it just turned dark for the very end and we had flaming torches outside the house - it was wonderful.
On Potteric Carr
I haven’t been for many years, but I absolutely love wildlife and nature, and I loved going there as a kid. In fact they have put a lovely bench there for my dad with music notes on it as he loved folk music.
On Woods Tea Rooms
I always visit here whenever I’m home, it’s such a gorgeous little place. I always used to take everyone there - mum, dad, directors, actors, friends,. It’s just so quaint and old-worlde, but without being naff or pretentious.
I always have the Christmas Rosti there every year. You mustn’t eat anything before that though, as it’s pretty momentous.
They are very kind at putting up my posters as well which is very generous of them.
I first went there back in the day when I was courting a girl in sixth form who used to work there, it was all very Brief Encounter. And I’ve been back there ever since.
On St George’s Church
This is such a beautiful building. It was an inspiration when I was doing my `What the Dickens’ shows, particularly the story of `The Chimes’. I always imagine the Chimes living up in the bell tower looking down on humanity through those black slatted windows..There’s a great reference to it too in that brilliant poem in the railway station.
I would love to record that some day, with a video montage of all the great Donny places.
I’ve played virtually every performance space available in Donny in my time - even St. George’s. It’s such a privilege to have played there. It was a Christmas concert and I did a reading as a comedy shepherd I seem to remember.
I still go there with mum most Christmas Eve’s. Their choir is fantastic, and it’s such an atmospheric place to be, perfect for Christmas.
On Doncaster Ukrainian Centre (UC)
This I think is the true cultural epicentre of Donny - my dad’s folk singing group play there and the REP who I used to act with rehearse and perform there.
Much as I love theatres, of course, I love the UC because, not being an actual theatre, it has a lovely unpretentious quality - very `theatre of the people’ which my dad loved and I do too. It has a great stage and surprisingly good dressing rooms backstage too.
I had the great privilege of singing two folk duets with my dad there before he sadly passed away. As well as recording them, we performed them both live to his folk singing group. It was very daunting as he was a stickler for getting it right, and he knew the songs of old but I’d only just learned them. They went wonderfully though.
I stage all my productions with my little amdram group Diamond Theatre Company, who I continue to dash up and perform with in Donny between professional gigs, at the UC now. We are presenting our third annual traditional Christmas pantomime this year - `Aladdin’.
It is extremely important to me that Donny audiences get a proper traditional pantomime, with appropriate humour for kids and a great script, with all the traditional routines.
I would also suggest people go to see the other great bands, theatre groups, and performances and events that go on at the UC throughout the year, as they do such a good spread.