HAMPSHIRE charities will benefit from more than a year’s worth of free support while the region’s biggest theatre is being refurbished this summer.

Staff from Mayflower Theatre will roll up their sleeves and volunteer at six charities as the £4m refurbishment takes place.

Every member of permanent staff will spend a minimum of two days volunteering until September 28 – when the theatre is set to reopen.

It equates to 282 days of volunteering – more than a whole working year – in just under four months.

Michael Ockwell, chief executive of Mayflower Theatre, said: “This is the perfect time for us to be able to help local charities while giving our staff the opportunity to do something incredibly rewarding.

“Giving back to the community is important to us and this is a great example of how we can create a positive impact on the people and charitable organisations around us.”

Staff will volunteer at:

l Countess Mountbatten Hospice, Hedge End

l Naomi House & Jacksplace, Sutton Scotney

l Marwell Zoo

l Scratch, Southampton

l Society of St James, Southampton

l FareShare, Totton

As reported, the theatre’s refurbishment coincides with the Mayflower’s 90th anniversary and will include painting the auditorium, installing new seating in the stalls and circle, increasing accessibility and improving technical and environmental efficiency.

The venue opened on December 22, 1928, as the Empire Theatre, becoming The Gaumont in 1950 and the Mayflower in 1987.

It remains the largest theatre in the south of England, attracts 500,000 visitors a year and employs 230 staff.