The public are being asked for their views on the Octagon Theatre’s £10 million redevelopment plan following the release of new images showing how the theatre could look.
The latest vision was released last week and members of the project team will be available to speak to today (Friday, June 2) at the Market Place Shopping Centre, Bolton from 2.30pm to 7.30pm.
A planning application for the project will be submitted in early July and the public can also email their comments to firstname.lastname@example.org until Fri 9 June.
The reimagined building will ensure the theatre’s future for generations to come. The plans for redevelopment, first announced in January 2015, will be the most comprehensive in the theatre’s 50 year history.
They will enlarge and modernise the building to improve accessibility and accommodation for the Theatre’s on and off-stage theatre projects. This will involve demolishing large sections of the building and rebuilding around the core of the theatre’s auditorium.
At the heart of the new building will be the theatre’s intimate flexible auditorium as well as two multi-purpose studio spaces for rehearsals, participation activities and performances, and new, revamped café and bar areas.
Roddy Gauld, Chief Executive, said: “Much of the detail is still being developed, including the final colour and the material of the exterior, but you can already see how much more welcoming, visible and larger the Octagon will be.
"The modern design will really add something new and exciting to the redevelopment of Bolton town centre. I’m really pleased with these ideas, and I hope the public will be too. It’s obviously a new look for the theatre.
"We know how much people love the Octagon, and as we rebuild it, we are retaining the auditorium and the overall character of the building. Although it looks different, our audiences should still feel very much at home here.
"Internally, as well as the main auditorium, our new studio spaces will provide better facilities for young people and the community. The building will be fully accessible and the audience experience will be much better, with air conditioning and new toilets. And backstage, artists and staff can look forward to more modern, less cramped working conditions.
"We’re now consulting the public on these ideas, and look forward to hearing what people think.”
With anticipated project costs of approximately £10m, funding pledges have already been secured from Arts Council England (distributing funds from the National Lottery good causes) and Bolton Council. A fundraising campaign led by the Octagon Theatre, which is a registered charity, is ongoing to secure the total amount.
Leader of Bolton Council, Councillor Cliff Morris, added: “These new images of how the Octagon may look as it is redeveloped are exciting. It is fitting that the new design is modern, yet it is clearly still recognisable as the Octagon.
"The theatre is a jewel in Bolton’s crown. It is at the forefront of the borough’s cultural life and a key part of our town centre regeneration plans.
"It is nationally renowned for staging ground-breaking productions, and I am proud to support such the development of such a fantastic theatre.”
The timescale for the projects will mean that the Octagon building will close from mid-2018 and re-open in autumn 2019. During this time, the Octagon, will remain open and active as an organisation, reaching new and existing audiences by operating in different spaces in and around Bolton.
Elizabeth Newman, Artistic Director of the Octagon Theatre, said: “We are so excited to be sharing these new images of our reimagined building. The artistic and social benefits to Bolton for the project will be incredible, as it will enable the theatre to expand its community and artistic provision and therefore our reach in the coming years.
"The aim of reimagining our building is to ensure accessibility to all including audiences, participants and artists. We will have more spaces available where our young people and community activities can take place and will enable us to make creative spaces fit for purpose in the 21st century as well as improving the experience of our audiences.
"Our vision for the Octagon is to have a building that will thrive for another 50 years to come and this new vision is an exciting step towards this.”
The project team includes award-winning architects Feilden Clegg Bradley, contractors, Willmott Dixon, Gardiner and Theobald as Project Managers and Charcoal Blue as the Theatre Consultants. The award-winning Waterman Group are the mechanical and electrical engineers, and Renaissance are providing the structural engineering.
Lead architect on the project Ernst ter Horst comments: “Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios feel privileged to be involved in this exciting, transformational project for Bolton. We have been captivated by the passion of the Octagon’s creative team, who lead unique theatre performances and have established a positive social and cultural role within the local area.
"There is a real potential to redefine the Octagon’s expression, build on and improve the experiences. We are thrilled to release these new images as an important step in the overall regeneration of Bolton town centre."