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Transformed Festival Theatre Chichester reopens…

Festival Theatre July 2014Chichester Festival Theatre today celebrated the successful completion of a highly ambitious 21-month, £22 million redevelopment project this week, with the official reopening of its Grade 2* listed building.

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 50th anniversary 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.


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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1 thought on “Transformed Festival Theatre Chichester reopens…”

  1. Robert Ferguson

    Please put me on your mailing list for forthcoming programme information. Thanks.

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