Jazz musician, broadcaster and former Squeeze band member Jools Holland (pictured) will be on hand at the launch of the fifth annual Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, the only major theatre awards wholly voted for the paying public. The nomination phase of the awards opens on the site (1 November 2004 – click here to nominate) ahead of a star-studded industry ceremony at which shortlists will be announced and voting launched across the 23 awards categories. This year’s celebration will be held at Planet Hollywood on Tuesday 30 November 2004.

Each year as part of the Awards event, Whatsonstage.com highlights the work of one outstanding arts-related charity. This year’s adopted charity is the Drake Music Project, which uses technology to provide opportunities for disabled people to explore, compose and perform their own music. Holland will be attending the awards in his capacity as Patron of the Drake Music Project.

Commenting on the link-up between the charity and the Awards, Holland said: “I love the work of the Drake Music Project. Its innovative approach and development of computer software to help even the severely disabled get pleasure from writing and performing music is genuinely ground-breaking and I take real pride in being associated with them. That Drake has now teamed up with Whatsonstage.com for the Theatregoers’ Choice Awards is excellent news. I am quite sure this will help raise awareness and much needed funds for Drake so that it can continue with the great work that it does.”

Following the announcement of the final list of nominees on 30 November, voting for the eventual winners will run online from 1 December 2004 through to 31 January 2005 with the winners announced in early February. The launch party will be attended by many of the faces seen on stage this year. Previous guests have included Brenda Blethyn, Michael Sheen, Amanda Holden, Julian Clary, Harriet Walter, Hugo Speer, Philip Quast, John Barrowman, Clive Rowe, Joanna Riding and Mark Ravenhill.

In addition to Planet Hollywood, which continues its three-year association with the Awards and lends its name to the Theatre Event of the Year prize, other sponsors of the fifth annual Awards are: for the second year, playtext publisher Samuel French, naming the Best Play Revival Award; marketing and distribution company, London Calling, naming Best Director; and Ms London magazine, naming London Newcomer of the Year.

- by Terri Paddock

To place your nominations for the 2005 Whatsonstage.com Theatregoers’ Choice Awards, covering the 2004 theatre year, click here.

To register your interest in attending the Awards launch party on 30 November, email [email protected]. To find out more about the Drake Music Project, visit the charity website.