Ambitious Telford Theatre rebuild plans detailed in full ahead of two-year closure
The stage is set for balcony seating, a better bar and tackling those toilet queues at Telford Theatre as it prepares for a major rebuild.
Telford Theatre, in Oakengates, will be closed for two-and-a-half years while a major re-build takes place which will see a two-tier auditorium built.
The rebuilt theatre will have an increased capacity from 660 to 750 and the new building will include an improved bar and dining facility.
Backstage areas will also be improved and a small studio theatre built for alternative and community performances – with 98 seats.
The project is possible thanks to a £15.5million bid to the Government’s Levelling Up Fund.
The theatre will close around March 2024 and reopen in October 2026, with some performances and the annual pantomime taking place at alternative venues during the project.
Plans for the building will be revealed at a public consultation event which takes place on Monday, December 4, between 2pm and 7.30pm, and Tuesday, December 5, between 9am and 1pm.
With the theatre being 60 years old ,Telford & Wrekin councillor and cabinet member for leisure Carolyn Healy feels now is the ‘right time’ for the rebuild.
“Parts of the structure will be taken down and re-built,” she said.
“What we’re finding because of the age of the building the general upkeep and maintenance of it was increasing over recent years.
“This gives us an opportunity to really create a good high-quality building that will see the theatre a long way into the future.
“We’re trying to make it look and feel more of a theatre rather than a standard council building. We are looking at the whole experience, not just as you step through the door, but the moment you arrive in the car park and see the building.
“The footprint will be the same as there isn’t really much space to take anything else. It’s more about maximising the space, as it probably doesn’t make the best use of the footprint it has got now.
“At the moment we have floor seating and the raised seating coming up to the back.
“We’ll create two storeys of seating so there will be a balcony in effect. The height of the building will go up, that’s one of the ways we are making that increased capacity.”
Councillor Healy said next month’s consultation events will allow residents to give their feedback before proposals are refined and turned into architectural drawings.
She added that when surveyed about the current theatre, customers wanted an improved bar and dining experience.
“People want that pre and post-theatre experience of dining and having a drink,” she said.
“We’re looking at having better circulation space in terms of the bar, dining experience and toilets. Queuing for the toilets in the break is a frustration for our customers.”
Backstage areas will also be improved as part of the building work and its hoped that the re-modelled auditorium will also appeal to acts.
“It’s more the feel of the theatre that I think is a limiter on some of the acts,” added Councillor Healy.
“Also having that increased height and the way the stage is set will allow us to set the stage that will suit some other performances that we don’t attract now.
“It’s not so much about the capacity but about the facility that will allow us to attract a broader range of acts.”
The council is currently looking to relocate the library which shares the building while the work takes place.
Councillor Healy added that the smaller studio theatre will enable acts who don’t need to large auditorium to also hold performances.
“We get quite a lot of ask for people to have community theatre space,” she added.
“Also for a diversity of acts, sometimes there are types of performances that won’t necessarily get 200 people wanting to book for it, stuff like poetry events that will have a lower audience but are still valuable to do because there is a demand for them and we want to make sure that people have access to a wide range of cultural activities.”
More information about the project is available at telfordtownsfund.co.uk