Space Architects to restore Darlington Civic Theatre to former glory

Posted 29.06.15 in News

An extensive restoration programme is set to return one of the North-East’s most prestigious theatres to its former glory.

Plans have been drawn up for Darlington Civic Theatre to undergo a major restoration, with the help of Space Architects who are leading on the design of the unique new cultural complex which will present a first class visitor experience for audiences of all ages.

Built in 1907, the theatre is a much loved and significant cultural asset for Darlington and the wider region and is well respected by national touring companies. It remains one of just a handful of Edwardian theatres in the UK which remain operational.

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 encompasses top class facilities such as cafes, a gallery, and state-of-the-art education and learning suites and is due for completion in 2017.

Space Architects 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.”

Darlington Civic Theatre is waiting to hear if its bid for a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £5m has 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, to help its cultural vision be realised.

Lynda Winstanley, director of Darlington Civic Theatre, said: “The overall outcome is to have a space which is accessible to people and one they can be a part of. Theatre is about ownership for the local community and it’s about people feeling they have a connection to it. Through this exciting restoration project, we hope to encourage people to share their experiences whilst 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, ensuring all key stakeholders were on board with their plans from the beginning. 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 amongst the local community and further afield.”