Howard and Rosemary awarded Honorary Freedom of the Borough in Woking

Mon 17 June 2019

Woking Borough Council has bestowed Honorary Freedom of the Borough upon long-serving members of the community Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire DBE at a Special Meeting of Council held on Thursday 13 June 2019, the first time the honours have been awarded in a decade.

The Freedom of the Borough recognises exceptional contributions, or distinctive service to the Borough by an individual or group of individuals. Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire DBE are key figures in the arts and entertainment industry within the UK and internationally, having co-founded the Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd (ATG), the world’s number one live-theatre company, and most recently co-founded their newest venture Trafalgar Entertainment.

During the Special Meeting, Mayor of Woking, Cllr Beryl Hunwicks, presented the Freeman’s Badge, ceremonial vellum scroll and certificate marking the occasion to Mr. Michael Bullen, Sir Howard Panter and Dame Rosemary Squire DBE. Their names will be inscribed on the Roll of Freemen of the Borough.

Cllr Beryl Hunwicks said: “Freedom of the Borough is an ancient tradition and the highest honour that any Council can bestow and this evening represents an historic moment for the Council. The Honour of Freedom of the Borough is not lightly awarded and signifies the distinguished service these members of our community have given to this Borough.

“And when considering the amount of joy that Sir Howard and Dame Rosemary have brought to members of our community and beyond through their many productions at the New Victoria Theatre, it gives me so much pleasure that we can recognise them in this way.”

Sir Howard Panter said: “Thank you to Woking Borough Council and the Woking community for this wonderful recognition, the Honorary Freedom of the Borough. Rosemary and I live in Surrey and have based our work here for over two decades. When we founded Ambassador Theatre Group, the New Victoria Theatre and Ambassadors Cinemas at the Peacocks Centre, they became our very first venues outside London. Woking remains a brilliant platform for our future growth and we look forward to continuing our work alongside this vibrant community.”

Dame Rosemary Squire DBE said: “To be bestowed the Honorary Freedom of the Borough by Woking Borough Council is a true honour. Woking Borough is not only our home but also the home to our businesses having spent more than two decades running Ambassador Theatre Group here. We are delighted to be back in Woking with our new venture Trafalgar Entertainment. Thank you to the community who continue to nourish and support us as we continue to create theatrical content for all to enjoy.”

Sir Howard Panter
Sir Howard Panter is a prominent theatre owner, producer and one of the key figures in the arts and entertainment industry with over 40 years’ experience.

Howard’s latest venture with his wife Dame Rosemary Squire DBE, is Trafalgar Entertainment, a live entertainment business and home to Trafalgar Releasing (formerly Picturehouse Entertainment), Stagecoach Performing Arts, Trafalgar Studios and Trafalgar Theatre Productions.

Trafalgar Entertainment opened new headquarters in Woking in May.  This was a homecoming for the pair who spent more than two decades running their global business, Ambassador Theatre Group, from the town.

Prior to Trafalgar Entertainment, Howard was co-founder, Joint CEO and Creative Director for the Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd (ATG), the world’s number one live-theatre company with almost 50 venues in Britain, the US and Europe. Under his leadership, ATG becamefrom scratch one of the most prolific, broad-based theatre producers in the world with productions in the West End and on Broadway including touring productions in the UK, North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

Between 2010 and 2016, Sir Howard and Dame Rosemary topped The Stage 100 most influential people in UK theatre, making them the most successful entrants ever. In 2013, the pair were placed first in the Evening Standard ‘Power 1,000’ Theatre section, the same year that Sir Howard received a Knighthood in The Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to theatre.

Dame Rosemary Squire DBE
Rosemary Squire OBE is the most prominent woman in British theatre of the modern era.  Under her leadership, Ambassador Theatre Group became the world’s largest live-theatre company with 46 venues in Britain, the US and Australia and one of the world’s most prolific theatre producers.  Now, she has moved into a new creative phase as Joint CEO and Executive Chair of Trafalgar Entertainment.

Dame Rosemary co-founded Ambassador Theatre Group in 1992 with her husband, Sir Howard, and three years’ later, as their success grew, they acquired Woking’s theatre and cinema complex. The pair returned to Woking in May, opening new headquarters for Trafalgar Entertainment at Export House.

In 2005, Dame Rosemary became only the second female president of the Society of London Theatre in its 100-year history, campaigning to improve the West End theatre-going environment and securing vital funding to improve London’s historic theatres.

Dame Rosemary was named the 16th most powerful woman in the UK by BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour in 2013, and a year later, was named EY Entrepreneur of the Year, becoming the first woman to win the award.

As Chair of Great Ormond Street Hospital’s Theatres for Theatres appeal, Dame Rosemary helped raise over £5 million and continues to support major fundraising appeals for the hospital. In the 2018 New Year Honours she was named Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for services to theatre and philanthropy.