National Volunteer Week: Celebrating Ruth McKay at Capital Theatres

This National Volunteer Week, we shine a light on Ruth McKay.

Ruth is the Chair of the Youth Advisory Board and also volunteers as part of the King's Theatre Oral Histories project. We thought National Volunteers Week (3 - 9 June) would be the perfect opportunity to share some of Ruth's story with you, and give a little insight into her work on The People's Archive.

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Celebrating Ruth McKay (front centre) on National Volunteer Week

Ruth has been involved with Capital Theatres for a long time. In fact her relationship with the theatre begins on a serious note. When Ruth was just 9 years old she was hospitalised with a rare virus. Ruth was (and still is) a huge musical theatre fan, and her parents had already got tickets to take her to Mary Poppins at the Festival Theatre at the time she was sick. 

In what is a huge testament to Ruth's character, she made it clear to every doctor she encountered that she absolutely would not be missing Mary Poppins – to the extent where it was even written on every one of her patients notes. When the day of the show came round, Ruth was still an inpatient. However, our staff worked with her parents to make it possible for her to attend.

She was discharged for four hours and in her own words "pumped full of drugs" to attend the show before going straight back onto the ward. She remembers her Gran, in a moment quite out of character, splashing the cash at the merch stand too. Ruth left with a tote bag full of goodies before being whisked back to the hospital.

This was such an important experience for Ruth that she decided she wanted to apply for the Youth Advisory Board six years later becoming one of the youngest members. She was recently nominated as the Chair of the Youth Advisory Board, a perfect fit to represent the voices of other young people at the theatre. Ruth has also performed on the Festival Theatre stage twice (including a principal role in MGA’S Bring It On last summer) and is now volunteering with The People's Archive. With Mary Poppins flying back into town in January 2025 we are sure Ruth will be as staunch in her desire to attend - and raid the merch stall! 

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Olive McMillen, playing Maria in the centre

In February of 2024 Ruth started volunteering as part of The People’s Archive - a project which celebrates the history of the theatre through collections of heritage items and oral histories. As part of this project Ruth has been trained as an Oral History Collector as well as a People's Archive Volunteer.

She initially began by cataloguing some of the collection and it became clear she had an interest in all things costume. Because of this, Ruth was paired up with Olive McMillen. Olive is one of our Oral History participants who has a performance background in many amateur theatre productions at the King's, including designing the costumes for both Show Boat and The Sound of Music. Ruth and Olive have hit it off (no surprises there!) and began meeting to discuss Olive's work over the years.

Ruth took a particular interest in Show Boat and has been exploring how the production was made as well as why it couldn't be made today. This is part of a project she's titled "Just Keeps Rollin' Along" and exploration to understand the roles shows like Show Boat play in our theatre's history and story. As part of the project Ruth told us that she plans on sketching Olive's costume designs, which were never documented on paper. This project, and many more, will be displayed on The People's Archive launching Autumn 2024.

We are so thankful to Ruth and all our volunteers at Capital Theatres, whose dedication, hard-work and passion are so important to what we do.

If you're interested in getting involved with The People's Archive you can find out more here.