An extensive restoration programme is set to return a historic North-East theatre to its former glory.
Plans have been drawn up for Darlington Civic Theatre to undergo a major restoration, with the aim of providing an improved visitor experience for audiences young and old.
Built in 1907, the theatre is a much-loved cultural asset for Darlington and the wider region and is well respected by national touring companies.
It remains one of just a handful of still-operational Edwardian theatres in the UK.
The proposals (over 45,000sq ft in area) bring together the refurbished and extended Darlington Civic Theatre with a new theatre facility for Theatre Hullabaloo, a young people’s theatre company, in a new cultural quarter bounded by Parkgate and Borough Road.
The scheme – due for completion in 2017 — includes cafes, a gallery, and education and learning suites.
Space Architects, which is leading on the design of the cultural complex, has worked with key local stakeholders from the outset, hosting a series of engagement sessions, consultation days and interactive workshops to ensure the design of both theatres are representative of the needs of their key audiences, as well as creating a space which is exciting and ground breaking in its offering.
David Coundon, architectural director of Space Architects said: “The challenge for us as architects lies in restoring Darlington’s iconic theatre to its original character but with a modern, sympathetic twist.
\"Over the years it has been modified, although not always in keeping with its traditional design, so we are working with the past to open up the historic elements of the theatre for people to enjoy, restoring it to its former glory.
“The original Edwardian footprint of the site means the listed building is squeezed for space, and key to the scheme is the creation of new public spaces, back of house and technical facilities in order that the original internal auditorium, circulation spaces and impressive facades can be fully restored.”
The theatre is waiting to hear if its bid for a £5 million Heritage Lottery Fund grant been successful
If successful, the theatre will also receive additional support from Darlington Borough Council.
The Hullaballoon Theatre is being developed with Arts Council England funding.
Theatre director Lynda Winstanley said: \"The overall outcome is to have a space which is accessible to people and one they can be a part of.
\"Through this exciting restoration project, we hope to encourage people to share their experiences while opening up the historic elements of the theatre for people to enjoy.
“Space Architects has taken great care to listen to us at every stage to date.
\"Their enthusiasm and sensitivity in their approach to the restoration project fills us with every confidence that Darlington Civic Theatre will be seen as a ‘beacon’ of cultural excellence among the local community and further afield.”
Source: Darlington & Stockton Times