Talking West Cheshire

Council reveals ‘all-star’ cast to produce theatre concept design

13 June 2012

OdeonThe award-winning team behind the transformation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s world-famous home at Stratford-upon-Avon is to provide the concept design of Chester’s new theatre.
Council chiefs today (Wednesday) raised the curtain on a star cast assembled to produce a guiding vision for the Borough’s £38m showpiece.

Bennetts Associates Architects – one of the UK’s leading architectural practices – will work on the concept design, supported by specialist theatre consultants Charcoalblue and multi-disciplinary engineering consultancy Buro Happold.

All three worked on the transformation of the Grade II* listed Royal Shakespeare Theatre – a sensitive, multi-award winning project incorporating the most significant remains and character of the earlier theatres on site with revolutionary theatre design techniques.

They join international specialist project managers, Buro Four, which also worked on the renowned redevelopment of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and have an extensive track record in the arts and heritage fields.

Said Cheshire West and Chester Council Leader Mike Jones: “I’m delighted. I believe we have secured an unrivalled blend of expertise and flair- talent that will produce a state-of-the art theatre vital to our aspirations as an international visitor centre.”

The concept team will contribute to the Council’s bid for £5m, due to go to the Arts Council when the next funding window opens, probably within the next two months.

If it is decided to incorporate a new central library within the one acre site, details of the schemes will be included as part of the bid.

Today (Wednesday) Bennetts Associates Architects Director Simon Erridge, said: “This is one of the most important theatre projects in the UK at the moment and we can’t wait to get started.

“Building a new theatre is a fantastic opportunity in any city; attracting new and diverse audiences, providing a cultural focus, and influencing the character of its surroundings.

“Chester’s site is superbly located in the historic city centre. By working in and around the existing listed buildings, we have the opportunity to create a unique new theatre which retains strong links with the city’s rich heritage.”

Buro Four are already engaged in developing a foundation strategy for Chester’s new theatre, due to open its doors at the city’s former Odeon Cinema in December 2015.

Said Project Leader David Boles: “Working with the Council, we have assembled a team with the experience and skills to bring this project together on time and within budget.”

Local Councillor Samantha Dixon has continually maintained that Chester should aim for a theatre of international reputation.

“These appointments suggest to me that my aspiration now has every possibility of becoming a reality – and that can only be good for the people of this Borough” she said.

Buro Four also worked on London’s Young Vic Theatre and Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts; Liverpool’s Bluecoat and Florence Institute, Derby Visual Arts Centre, Coventry’s Belgrade Theatre and Victoria Baths and Gorton Monastery in Manchester.

Bennetts’ portfolio includes the Hampstead Theatre and Swiss Cottage Masterplan, and the Old Vic Theatre, Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Theatre Clwyd and Brighton’s Jubilee Library and Masterplan.