THE AUDITORIUM DEVELOPMENT PROJECT
Coming soon – increased comfort and better views!
The Auditorium Development Project supported by the Hamish Ogston Foundtion is an ambitious capital works programme that will provide more comfortable seating and improved views of the stage whilst maintaining the building’s unique heritage and authenticity.
Why do we need to make changes?
Built in 1788, The Georgian Theatre Royal is the UK’s oldest working theatre in its original form. When you step through the doors of its pocket-sized auditorium you can almost hear the rowdy antics of the lively Georgian audiences. “Nowhere else in England is the earthy immediacy of the 18th century playhouse evoked so strongly.” (The Theatres Trust)
However, our amazing Theatre is not just a historic novelty for visitors to wonder at. It is still used as a live performance venue and to achieve financial sustainability, it has to satisfy the needs of modern audiences.
Customer feedback repeatedly highlights issues with uncomfortable seating, and some people comment that it actually prevents them from booking tickets.
“We saw a music show which was great, but the seats were uncomfortable.” Trip Advisor review.
Making sure we get it right
In 2018, we undertook a feasibility study to determine how the seating could be made more comfortable without detracting from the Georgian ‘experience’. The seating that is being replaced dates from the 1960s and it is entirely possible to carry out significant improvements without affecting the original fabric of the Grade 1 listed building.
As part of the process, heritage impact assessments were undertaken by both Historic Theatre Consultant, David Wilmore, and RICS approved Certified Historic Building Professionals, Maddison James Associates.
The results of the study were then shared with Richmond Town Council (who own the building), Friends of The Georgian Theatre Royal, volunteers, and Richmond District Civic Society. Site visits were also conducted by Richmondshire District Council and Historic England, who both fully endorse the project. Listed Building Consent was granted in April 2019.
Funding for the project was finally secured in June 2020 when The Hamish Ogston Foundation stepped forward with a donation of £375,000, enabling work to take place during the Theatre’s closure due to Covid-19 restrictions. A well-known philanthropist, Hamish Ogston is Vice President and a long-standing supporter of The Georgian Theatre Royal.
“I am delighted to be able to facilitate this aspiring and most worthwhile project through the work of my Foundation,” said Hamish Ogston. “It is essential to preserve historic buildings like this, particularly when they house some of our most enduring traditions. By developing and enhancing them in creative ways we can ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy them as we do.”
What are we hoping to achieve?
Overall, the project aims to address the two main concerns with the seating - poor comfort and restricted views of the stage from parts of the auditorium. In order to increase legroom and improve sightlines, some of the new seating will be re-configured and elevated. Where floor levels are raised to increase the rake of the seats, platforms will be laid over the original flooring. This will not only ensure that the fabric of the building is preserved but it also means that all the renovations are completely reversible.
Improvements will also be made to the heating, ventilation and air condition systems. This forms part of the wider Auditorium Development Project and has been funded by the Foyle Foundation, the Normanby Trust, and the Hamish Ogston Foundation.
Area by area
- The back supports on the benches will be re-shaped to improve comfort.
- The benches will be with permanent fuller cushions.
- Each bench seat is individually sculpted for lasting comfort.
- Seat depths have been increased.
- Floor levels will be raised in some places to improve sightlines and increase access.
- The partitions will be re-arranged to open up the area in each box.
- New chairs are being introduced with improved comfort.
- The rear benches in the centre boxes will be removed.
- Backrests are being introduced to the rear benches.
- Platforms will be built to re-rake the seating, thereby greatly improving sightlines and increasing legroom.
- Seat depths and widths will be increased, with additional padded backrests to improve comfort.
- Seats will be spread more evenly to improve leg room.
- One row of seats will be removed in the side gallery to improve ingress and egress.
- A wheelchair turning circle will be included on this level.
If you would like to find out more about the Theatre’s Auditorium Development Project, please get in touch with Clare Allen, the Theatre’s Chief Executive, on 01748 823710 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We look forward to welcoming you to our fabulous new auditorium in 2021.