Frontline - Capital Project Network

Hayley Chester outlines the plans for UK Theatre’s Capital Project Network.

Hayley Chester.jpg

By Hayley Chester

Date Published: 01 November 2016

Our aim is to bring together venues, project managers, fundraisers, funding bodies and architects to form an information exchange.”

“The help, guidance and generosity of colleagues across UK Theatre has been invaluable to us so far.” Roddy Gauld, Octagon Bolton

Refurbishment and extension of existing arts buildings is essential if we are to improve the resilience and sustainability of the existing arts infrastructure. Liverpool Everyman, Nottingham Playhouse, Chichester Festival Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, the National Theatre and Battersea Arts Centre; just a few of many capital projects recently completed or underway.

With so many large scale building projects undertaken, with grants ranging from £1m to £17m, UK Theatre wants to build a network of Members with expert knowledge and hands-on experience to offer guidance to others in the midst of their own project. 

Holding a senior position at an organisation whilst simultaneously overseeing a multi-million pound building project with umpteen stakeholders can seem a daunting undertaking. So our aim is to bring together venues, project managers, fundraisers, funding bodies and architects to form an information exchange and support.

This is already happening informally across the theatre and performing arts world. Roddy Gauld, Chief Executive at Bolton’s Octagon said “The help, guidance and generosity of colleagues across UK Theatre has been invaluable to us so far.”

The Octagon has received £4.3m of ACE funding and has already reached 85% of its match funding target as they head to secure Stage 2 of their funding. They have built a collaborative and supportive relationship with their local authority - not only have Bolton Council given £4m but they also offer support in kind and resources . They are landlord, and take on much of the financial risk, at the same time allowing the venue the freedom to manage the project under their protection.

Keeping the Octagon a thriving, vibrant organisation, with all staff employed will be crucial when the Octagon goes dark for a year at the end of their 50 th anniversary season (over 2018-19) to allow building works to be completed. Quality productions will be presented in alternative spaces throughout the city, which Gauld sees it as an opportunity to “create work that takes our existing audience to new spaces and hopefully gain new audiences that might not have seen our work otherwise.”  The Octagon has been a people’s theatre since it opened in 1967, paid for by public donation and appeal and this will undoubtedly help forge a further connection with the community.

Julien Boast, Chief Executive of the Hall for Cornwall, is currently in the middle of a £19m project to re-energise the building that was the first to receive National Lottery funding 18 years ago. Boast has spent a great deal of time over the last three years securing funding - a mix of Arts Council England, local authority, Treasury and European Regional Development Funding. Hall for Cornwall is part of a huge commitment to the creative industries by Cornwall Council. The development includes other attractions in the county and is a partnership with Falmouth University. This guarantees financial support, but with that comes many differing opinions and pulls. He has also set-up a fundraising department using an ACE Catalyst award and specialist expertise in fundraising from Board members. Boast has an added challenge “that the South West is lacking in large corporations who might donate large amounts - we have had to think differently about fundraising.”

“It is hugely important to have a supportive and knowledgeable team around you and a great architect who will listen and come up with something totally visionary. We also engaged a cultural consultancy to help with writing bids and navigating the complexities of funding applications.”  

Judith Kilvington, having had experience of overseeing a Capital Project creating a home for Graeae, is currently in the throng of a £20.8m complete refurbishment of Glasgow’s Citizens Theatre. “Although you learn a lot along the way, having a project management team with an understanding of the technical aspects of a capital project and a background in theatre and a total grasp of the nuances of a project is crucial.” The design was approached with disabled artists firmly in mind but had to be inclusive and welcoming for everyone, not just practically but also adhering to Jenny Sealey’s vision of a ‘creatively accessible’ building.

So with all this and many additional elements to factor in such as environmental sustainability, community buy-in and landlord relationships to name just a handful, a network of supportive colleagues to help you navigate the journey will provide much-needed support for our sector.

If you’d be interested in becoming part of the Capital Project Network please get in touch by email or phone 020 7557 6700.


Octagon Theatre Exterior Photo Credit Gemma Rooke.jpg
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"UK Theatre" is the operating name of UK Theatre Association, a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales, whose registered office is at 32 Rose Street, London, WC2E 9ET, Company No 323204.