Skating@Life has been declared ‘open’ after a royal visit by Queen Rita from Newcastle Theatre Royal’s production of Sleeping Beauty.
The pantomime dame – aka Chris Hayward – was joined at a celebrity opening ceremony by Wallace and Gromit and TV’s Dancing on Ice star Susie Lipanova.
The real ice rink opens to the public on November 12 at 11am for its 10th consecutive year – and 80,000 visitors are expected to don their skates between now and the middle of February next year.
The rink – which has taken 1,000 man hours to build – has become an integral part of the Newcastle Gateshead Initiative Winter Festival. It is unusual for a temporary rink in that it is made of 50 tonnes of real ice.
The opening ceremony saw Wallace and Gromit – currently in residence at Life for an extended period until January 30 in Wallace and Gromit Present…A World of Cracking Ideas – glide on to the ice on sledges and wearing specially created winter woolly hats and scarves made by Guinness World Record Holder for Big Knitting, Ingrid Wagner, who is based at Kirkharle in Northumberland.
Susie Lipanova then welcomed Chris, the North East’s most famous pantomime dame, in his role of Queen Rita onto the ice to declare the rink open for its short season.
The Theatre Royal pantomime is widely regarded as one of the biggest and best Christmas shows in the country and this year’s production runs from November 29 until January 21 next year.
The cast also includes Danny Adams and Clive Webb playing Muddles and The King, respectively. Sleeping Beauty is the first panto to be shown in the new multi-million pound restored auditorium.
Chris is unique amongst other such performers in that he designs and creates all his own costumes and is commissioned by many other top panto artistes to make theirs too.
This is Chris’ 26th appearance as a dame and playing Queen Rita in his home town of Newcastle marks something of a milestone in his incredibly successful career.