WHEN Derek Aldridge started working at the Palace Theatre in London during a university gap year, he knew that a life treading the boards (albeit behind the scenes) was for him.

After being taken on by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group, he has worked in the box office, sold ice creams, led marketing teams, managed a 1,000 seat venue and now he has joined the Wyvern Theatre as the new theatre director.

“My heart lies with working in the theatre and this was a fantastic opportunity to work with a commercial theatre group, but be able to programme it myself,” he said.

“I have targets that I have to meet, but apart from that I’m pretty much left to it.

“My predecessor, Andy Hill, has done an amazing job relaunching the theatre after its closure for a year and I hope to build on that.

“My job is to make sure the programme appeals to as many people as possible and from as wide a distance as possible.

“I have to get out the message that it is easy to get here and easy to park. I want to promote the theatre and the town.”

Derek joins the Wyvern team from Cheltenham Town Hall, where he was general manager for three-and-a-half years. Before that he spent six years at the Everyman Theatre in Cheltenham as the head of sales and marketing.

But he’s no stranger to Swindon. He lives in Cirencester with his wife, Kate, who is a teacher in Covingham, and their three daughters.

“I’m really excited about taking on the role of theatre director at the Wyvern,” he said.

“I’m looking forward to getting to know the town much better.”

He has nothing but praise for his team and wants people to feel that the programme is developing and that everyone is a part of the theatre.

“Since coming to the Wyvern I’ve been impressed that promoters and producers really want to play Swindon,” he said.

“That is a credit to the technical and front of house staff here at the Wyvern, but also to the town itself.

“There is so much potential here. Because Swindon is an expanding town there is a dynamism that you don’t see in a lot of other places.

And Derek is eager to hear what the people of Swindon would like to see at the theatre.

“It will be a while before you see my work, as we obviously have to work quite a way in advance,” he said.

“I’m currently working on the spring and summer 2010 programme but would love to hear what sort of things residents in the town would like to see here.”

Derek is also keen for the Wyvern to become the heart of the town centre and for the facilities to be put to better use during the day.

“I’m working with a number of businesses, groups and charities to see if we can utilise the theatre more during the day,” he said.

“The theatre is traditionally the focal point of the town and I would like to see the Wyvern become that. To start with it’s all about making people aware of what we can offer.”

If you have any suggestions for the programme, or would like to find out more about using the theatre during the day, email Derek on derek@wyverntheatre.org.uk