Festival Theatre Reopens After Major Redevelopment

Festival Theatre Reopens After Major Redevelopment

Chichester Festival Theatre celebrated the successful completion of a highly ambitious 21-month, £22 million redevelopment project this week, with the official reopening of its much-loved Grade 2* listed building.

Images and videos including archive footage of Laurence Olivier at the opening of the theatre in 1962, a tour of the new spaces led by Joshua McGuire, timelapse footage of the redevelopment works and interviews with key partners are available to download from here

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The Festival Theatre unveiled a major production of Amadeus starring Rupert Everett and Joshua McGuire, directed by Chichester's Artistic Director, Jonathan Church.

Executive Director, Alan Finch said: "The reopening of our Theatre just 21 months after its demolition began is the culmination of an experience that has been exciting, memorable and at times extremely challenging! It's an incredible achievement to have reopened the building on time, having met our fundraising target. I am immensely proud of the hard work undertaken by our architects, building team and contractors, Theatre staff and our Campaign Committee. We're extremely thankful for the support we've received from our audiences, individual donors, stakeholders and businesses, as well as Arts Council England, West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council. Our goal was to safeguard this building for the next generation and we're thrilled to have achieved this."

Artistic Director, Jonathan Church said: "What's always been unusual about this Theatre is that it was built by the vision of one local man Leslie Evershed-Martin, supported by hundreds if not thousands of people, all putting their hands in their pockets. The RENEW project feels that it's recaptured that moment when the Theatre was first built, in a fresh and equally inspiring way. Yet again this city and region has responded and helped in so many ways, sometimes with money, sometimes with time and effort, so it's been very, very special. It's going to be tremendously exciting to open the Theatre with Peter Shaffer's Amadeus, nearly 50 years after the premieres of The Royal Hunt of the Sun and Black Comedy, and particularly special for Peter to be with us to celebrate."

The refurbishment of the Festival Theatre has involved a careful marriage of old and new. It has conserved the iconic and architecturally significant features of the original modernist 'concrete tent'. At the same time the redevelopment has incorporated essential repairs, major enhancements and a new extension, clad in distinctive Cor-Ten material, to house the new backstage facilities.

The key improvements include:

  • Two new café and bar extensions opening onto outdoor terraces, and improved picnic areas - making the Festival Theatre a welcoming destination for everyone
  • Bigger foyer areas with more space, light and seating - and twice as many toilets
  • Improved Access facilities with two new lifts, making the Theatre fully accessible on all levels
  • Transformed auditorium with increased seating capacity and refurbished seats
  • An increase in the auditorium rake, improving sightlines and intimacy by bringing audiences closer to the stage
  • A new extension housing significantly improved backstage facilities for actors, creatives and Theatre staff
  • Changes to make the building more energy efficient including a new ground source heat pump system to both heat and cool the building.

The redevelopment has been conceived and undertaken by award-winning architects Haworth Tompkins, whose work includes the acclaimed redesign of London's Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool's Everyman Theatre and recently The Shed at the National Theatre.

The building work has been carried out by Osborne, a company with strong links to the West Sussex area. It has worked on many projects in the region including the Shoreham Harbour footbridge and new G-Block at Chichester College.

The RENEW redevelopment project was launched in 2012, during the Festival Theatre's 50thanniversary year, in recognition that the building was operating on a scale way beyond what was envisaged when it first opened in 1962.

The RENEW project received £12 million from Arts Council England. This immediately unlocked an additional £8 million in pledged local support from businesses, trusts and individuals, and, most notably, from West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council who pledged £1.5 million and £500,000 respectively. The remaining funds have been raised by the RENEW Campaign Committee and its Ambassadors. Over 12,000 people have now supported the appeal and the original fundraising target of £22 million has been met.

Support was also received from the Heritage Lottery Fund, whose grant of £1.2million supported the Theatre's restoration and funded Pass It On, a 3-year community participation programme charting the history of Chichester Festival Theatre and creating an archive that celebrates the past 50 years.

Chichester Festival Theatre is one of the UK's flagship theatres with an international reputation for producing work of the highest quality, ranging from large-scale musicals to distinguished dramas.

The RENEW project team has been led by Executive Director Alan Finch and Artistic Director Jonathan Church who took over the running of Chichester Festival Theatre in 2006. During their tenure, Festival seasons have played to an average 88% compared to 51% in 2005, and the company has won 37 awards, including 4 Olivier awards in 2013.

Festival 2014's season includes Pressure, Pitcairn and Taken At Midnight, a trilogy of world premieres exploring the untold stories behind known historical events, the Miss Julie / Black Comedy double bill which is currently playing in the Minerva Theatre and the musicals Guys and Dolls and Gypsy which will open in the Festival Theatre later this year.

During 2014, Chichester Festival Theatre productions will continue to be seen by the widest possible audience. Singin' in the Rain continues its UK tour until October 2014 and Barnum begins a UK tour in the autumn. Another Country played at the Trafalgar Studios for a limited season while The Pajama Game currently plays at the West End's Shaftesbury Theatre. The Last Confession, directed by Jonathan Church, is touring to Canada, America and Australia.

CFT's success has had a significant positive economic impact in Chichester and throughout West Sussex. From September 2011 - August 2012, Chichester Festival Theatre contributed £17.5 million to the local economy.

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