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Alexandra Theatre, Bognor Regis 14 June 2021
1.0 Executive summary
This report has been prepared by Burrell Foley Fischer Architects, Stephen Browning Associates Arts Business Consultants and Synergy Cost consultants for Arun District Council. The report considers the business case to give The Alexandra Theatre a sustainable future, the architectural proposals that could achieve a phased redevelopment and the cost plan to deliver the scheme.
The report contains the following:
Outline Business Plan (Section 3.0)
This section by SBA considers the following topics in the future development of the Alexandra Theatre:
- Review of previous arts business studies;
- Assessment of the 2019 Customer Survey;
- Audience Research carried out in 2021 as part of the study;
- Assessment of community support and demand for both tickets and studio space;
- Context for redevelopment;
- Potential for remodelling the auditorium;
- Potential for exhibition space.
The plan concludes with the following headline recommendations:
- Auditorium: increase seat capacity to 450 and improve audience comfort;
- Studios: additional studio space to meet community demand and develop relationships with other cultural organisations;
- Bar: optimise the commercial opportunity and improve catering facilities;
- Front of House: better spaces for audience and visitor use day and evening including toilets;
- Better Connections: to Bognor Regis;
- Gallery Spaces: for community use;
- Back of House: Retain and refurbish
- Energy Efficiency: a visibly greener building;
Architectural Analysis (Section 4.0)
The report presents an updated analysis responding to the proposals for the significant improvement of Place St Maur. The analysis covers:
- Site Analysis: Assessment of the current relationship between the building and the town and the opportunities that could improve connectivity including to the proposals for Place St Maur;
- Building Analysis: Assessment of the existing building: which elements should economically be retained and where new interventions are required;
- Brief: an outline spatial brief developed through meetings with ADC, Arun Arts and the outcomes from the Business Plan.
Architectural Proposals (Section 5.0)
The report presents design proposals exploring the following elements of the brief:
- Phasing: a phasing strategy is proposed allowing the theatre to be redeveloped with the Brewers Fayre public house still operational. A second, future phase is proposed if the Brewers Fayre is relocated and the sea-facing building redeveloped as part of the Regis Centre;
- Front of House: a scheme with generous front of house facilities maximising connectivity with the surrounding streetscape and with Place St Maur, making the theatre a welcoming heart for Bognor;
- Auditorium: proposals to modify the auditorium increasing visitor comfort and capacity;
- Studio Spaces: five studio spaces accessed from the foyer;
- Gallery Space: an exhibition space along Belmont Street with good visibility and easy access (Phase two could include more ambitious gallery and exhibition proposals);
- Greener Theatre: proposals to improve the carbon efficiency of the building.
Cost Plan (Section 6.0)
Synergy has prepared an outline cost plan for the scheme based on the massing and floor areas. The cost plan includes: demolitions, refurbishment, new extensions, external works, construction costs and likely fees. The budget cost for the scheme is just under £10 million (ex VAT), with a cost option of a further £1.5 million to replace the artificial slate roof.
Key Decisions and Next Steps
This report has been prepared for Arun District Council review and submission as part of their application for the first round of the ‘Levelling Up Fund’. Should the application be successful, the funds would be released in Autumn 2021, the project would need to be ‘on the ground’ in the 2021-2022 financial year with expenditure complete by March 2024. This will require a fast design programme turn around to complete construction by this date.
Whilst the application is considered by the Fund, Arun Council should:
- Develop the overall project programme;
- Carry out a detailed review of the closure period of the theatre which would also explore the feasibility of presenting a limited programme of work on stage;
- Develop a comprehensive 5 year business plan with Arun Arts covering the closure period, the reopening of the theatre and the first year of a full programme in the new building;
- Consider procurement and appointment of the project team ready to hit the ground running;
- Consider the procurement of surveys (timing to be coordinated with Arun Arts’ programme) to allow a meaningful start to design in the autumn;
- Review and provide feedback on the proposals in the report including any amendment to scope.
Commencement of the project will allow refinement of the brief and opportunities to consult more widely with the potential stakeholders. The design team should kick off by spending time reviewing the existing building and getting to know Arun Arts.
Burrell Foley Fischer was approached by Arun District Council in March 2021 to revisit a study for the Alexandra Theatre in Bognor Regis carried out by BFF, Quartet, Synergy and Arup in 2012. Arun District Council has included the theatre as one of three projects to be submitted in 2021 to the Levelling up Fund for regeneration in Coastal Communities.
The original study assessed the business case for ensuring the future of a successful Alexandra Theatre, including analysis of potential audiences. While the brief for the 2012 study assumed that significantly expanding the audience capacity would secure the theatre’s future, the audience analysis undertaken at that time suggested that a limited increase in seats accompanied by significant improvements in the audience experience would deliver a more sustainable business plan. An architectural analysis was included exploring the relationship between the theatre and the town and assessing the limitations and potential of the existing building. The study reviewed three possible scales of project by budget, a £1million, £3million and £5 million scheme, with the £5 million scheme assessed as most likely to deliver the business plan. Quartet carried out a further review of the theatre in 2016 and noted the significant progress made in developing the programme and the audience numbers but highlighted the ongoing deterioration of the building.
The brief for the 2021 study from Arun District Council asked BFF to:
- Refresh the business plan (following several successful years at the theatre);
- Respond to the proposed redevelopment of Place St Maur;
- Consider a phased delivery of a scheme to include improvements to the theatre as Phase 1 and future redevelopment of the adjacent Brewers Fayre pub as Phase 2;
- Develop an updated scheme with costed proposals for review by the Council.
Quartet has since merged with Stephen Browning Associates, and Stephen has prepared the updated Outline Business Plan included in Section 3.0.
The Alexandra Theatre has a loyal following achieving high ticket sales with some shows selling out, but the discomfort of the current auditorium and poor quality facilities discourages visitors and prevents the theatre maximising the commercial opportunities from bar sales and catering. The Back of House and Stagehouse are adequate, but a slightly larger audience capacity could attract more shows. The theatre does not sit comfortably in the town, the sloping roofs and small awkward entrance deter visitors and absolutely fail to maximise the opportunities for sea views and connectivity on such a special site. There is a significant demand for studio, rehearsal, events and community spaces and the Alexandra could easily support a significant increase in this offer.
The excellent community and education work, the outreach to local non-theatre going communities, the potential for greater connectivity with other cultural institutions and the strong marketing strategy from Arun Arts all point to the potential for the theatre to be the cornerstone of regeneration in Bognor Regis and fulfil the Levelling Up Fund requirements for projects that: ‘..strengthen the local economy and build civic identity, the infrastructure of everyday life’.
BFF has spent time with Arun Arts as part of the study and a detailed brief developed from the visit is included in section 4.0.
BFF developed preliminary design proposals for an Initial Design Review by ADC in April 2021, exploring site analysis, phasing and opportunities for place making connecting to Place St Maur and the wider town. These proposals were well received, and this design report presents the further development of the scheme.
3.0 Outline business plan
The Alexandra Theatre is a small-scale community theatre situated on the seafront in Bognor Regis. The theatre presents a broad and popular programme with a mix of community productions, pantomime, music, musical theatre, drama, comedy and dance, together with a number of special events. It also hosts an impressive number of local groups and community associations who provide a range of courses, drama and dance classes, training and workshops.
Built in 1980 the Alexandra Theatre forms part of the Regis Centre; the other half of the site is a public house operated by Whitbreads. The building has deteriorated significantly over the last 40 years despite ongoing repair work, and the facilities for the public, particularly the studios and the front of house areas, are no longer fit for purpose given the increasing use by the local community and by visitors to Bognor Regis over the last five years.
3.2 Arun Arts
The Alexandra Theatre is managed and operated by a charitable organisation, Arun Arts (charity number 1061163).
The objects of the charity are:
- To advance the education of the public in Bognor Regis and the surrounding area in drama and the other performing arts.
- To promote the benefit of the inhabitants of Bognor Regis and the surrounding area by the provision of facilities in the interest of social welfare for recreation and leisure time occupation with the object of improving the conditions of life for the said inhabitants by providing, managing and making available a theatre, cinema, art gallery, public hall and conference centre.
The company operates under an underlease granted to it in August 1996 by Whitbread Plc which runs to August 2046.
Arun Arts is run by Hazel Latus, who is supported by a very small team of dedicated professional staff. The company relies on its strong team of local volunteers, who cover Front of House, Box Office, the Café, Building Maintenance and First Aid; the volunteer staff have an estimated value of around £250,000 per year.
3.3 Previous studies of the Alexandra Theatre
Arup Study 2012
In 2012 Arun District Council commissioned a report on the Alexandra Theatre from Arup, Burrell Foley Fischer and Quartet. The conclusions of the report were based on extensive market research and an in-depth assessment of the building. The report noted that:
‘The Alexandra Theatre’s programming recognises that the venue has a key role to play in the local community and it is not trying to compete with the well-resourced arts venues within a 30- minute drive from Bognor Regis.’
‘The local audience clearly supports the theatre, though recent research suggests that the audience would be larger if the facilities were improved and updated. Research was undertaken with residents as part of compiling Arun’s Leisure and Culture Strategy (2011), and it is noticeable that the Regis Centre received the lowest rating (5.3) of all local theatres; the Theatre Royal Brighton was rated 7.1, the Chichester Festival Theatre received a rating of 7.7, while West End theatres achieved an overall rating of 8.1. Around 24% of residents claim to visit or to participate in theatre, but this figure would potentially increase to 32% if facilities were improved.’
'Young people living in the district also rated the theatre below other arts venues (the Alexandra Theatre was rated 2.9, compared to Chichester Festival Theatre at 3.9). However, it is also important to note that residents clearly felt that improving the theatre was one of the most urgent requirements of the Leisure and Culture Strategy, placing it second out of 34 local facilities covered in the research.’
The principal conclusions of the Arup Study were as follows:
- The Alexandra Theatre plays an important role in the local community, providing professional entertainment, facilities for local amateur performers and a flourishing partnership with the University of Chichester.
- The stagehouse, including backstage facilities and dressing rooms, are broadly appropriate for the needs of the locality and for the scale of touring productions visiting the town.
- There is a strong case for a modest increase in seating capacity from 357 to no more than 450 seats in order to maximise income, particularly from the pantomime.
- A refurbished theatre requires an additional studio/ rehearsal space, as well as an improved café and bar facilities.
- The theatre needs to directly manage its own bar and catering operation in order to maximise income.
- There is scope for developing a wider audience for drama if better front of house facilities were provided
Quartet study 2012
The consultants from Quartet were asked to review the Alexandra Theatre again in 2016 and noted that Arun Arts had made significant progress in developing the artistic programme, marketing and income generation.
Quartet noted that:
- The appointment of a Marketing Manager had yielded immediate results. In the first year 20 events sold over 95%, 30 events sold over 75% and the average capacity in the theatre was 70%. The pantomime played to 84% capacity, with audiences unable to get tickets for the most popular performances over Christmas.
- A new box office system had been installed giving the theatre the ability to research its audiences, encourage repeat booking and facilitate online booking.
- The rehearsal space was now at full capacity and there was a clear need for further facilities for use by the local community, by professional theatre and dance groups, by the University and by local young people’s theatre groups. Regular hires had increased and there were 15 community groups using the two studios on a weekly basis.
- Relationships were developing with Chichester Festival Theatre to explore opportunities to work together to provide events for low-income families. This had led to an expansion of the half term Family Fun Week to include many more free events for local families, enabling low-income families to introduce their children to the theatre for the very first time.
- The Trust had also taken advice from Arts Council on the best way to develop professional touring drama and was set to join the House network of touring venues, along with The Dome Brighton, Farnham Maltings and the Corn Exchange Newbury.
- A new theatre group for young people, ARTY, had been established with 25 members.
- Classical music concerts had been established on a monthly basis.
- Bognor Regis Town Council was supporting the theatre with an annual revenue grant of £10,000 for three years from 2016/17.
But Quartet also recognised that the building needed significant investment.
‘The front of house area is no longer fit for purpose, with water dripping through the cracks in the glass roof. The café, the gallery space and the charity shop are all looking tired, and the entrance to the Regis Centre is uninviting to people passing the building on their way to the seafront.’
Quartet also noted that members of the public had commented on the shabby entrance as well as the fact that it was too hot in the auditorium and that the toilets were in need of refurbishment. However, the consultants also recognised the importance of the situation of the Alexandra Theatre in Bognor Regis and emphasised its role as a major catalyst for the regeneration of the seafront by operating a year-round programme of arts and events for both residents and visitors.
3.4 Theatre Customer Survey 2019
The theatre has recently undertaken an extensive customer survey, with over 2,400 members of its audience, which provides clear evidence of community support for the Alexandra Theatre but also highlights the need to improve the facilities in the building. The full survey is at Appendix 4.
Further analysis of this report suggests that over 90% of visitors were either satisfied or very satisfied with their visit the Alexandra Theatre.
Customer service and the box office were also rated excellent by huge numbers of the audience (1723/1668 respectively) but it is noticeable that the bars and café rated less support, possibly because far fewer people made use of these facilities. Over 1400 people did not use either the bar or the café, nearly 60% of the audience, so the research suggests that
there are clearly opportunities for the Trust to boost catering income by providing a larger and more visible bar and café in the foyer, supported by an online ordering operation. This will be even more important if the auditorium is enlarged, and audiences increase.
The survey also asked people to comment on the performance, the customer service and the facilities, and we have highlighted some of the responses below.
- Fantastic Panto. Everything we wanted and more!
- Staff being extremely helpful and friendly
- It was a relaxed and organised well considering it is the first time the Bognor Dance Festival had taken place in your theatre. Car park spaces and easy to use.
- The show Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was brilliant
- Being able to see my child perform in a show. The big rooms and facilities available and all nearby for the children to use while getting ready to perform are safe in rooms with the appropriate people.
But there were some negative responses, particularly about the auditorium.
- VERY VERY limited leg room so when people in front us moved their seat backs rammed into our knees. By the end of evening we had sore backs & knees
- It was very draughty sitting in this row when thedoor was open. It was a particularly windy night that evening, but I had to keep my coat on throughout the performance as it was quite chilly in the auditorium.
- More leg room on the seats, no room to put legs straight had to put them sideways
- The seating is terrible. Hardly any room for legs, which are very cramped up, no matter where you sit. We have been coming to your theatre for many years, but it is now getting very painful to sit comfortably, and you find yourself waiting for the lovely shows to end, simply because you are so uncomfortable.
- The reception and cafe could do with a spruce up!
- The scorching heat in the auditorium. Nearly passed out!
- The theatre needs some type of air conditioning. The theatre last night was way too hot and the whole audience were trying to fan themselves to keep cool as well as the orchestra put where they must have been hotter than us crammed in a small space.
- Cafe area - crowded & shares space with entrance & reception. Theatre needs better access & throughflow of public
- I will not come in the summer months again as it is far too hot (in the theatre).
The redevelopment of the theatre must address the issues raised by the public around temperature and ventilation as well as the comfort of the seating and leg room in the auditorium. It must also improve access to the building, the through-flow and orientation of the public within the building itself and examine ways of upgrading the key facilities for the public in the foyer such as the bar and the café.
3.5 Evidence of increasing community support for the theatre’s programme and demand for its facilities.
In the last four years the small professional team at the theatre, with the support of around 50 volunteers, has achieved marvels in keeping the building open on extremely limited resources. However, it is evident that the deteriorating fabric and cramped facilities are not serving performers, audiences, community hirers, visitors or staff, and there is now a real urgency to redevelop the building so that it is fit for purpose.
In the last full year (2019) the Alexandra Theatre presented 234 performances of 85 productions to an audience of 47,258 people. The average capacity across all performances was 70%, with 22 shows sold out completely. Ticket sales have been high over the last four years, maintaining an average of 70% capacity. Community groups, such as BROS (the
Bognor Regis Operatic Society), play an important role in the theatre’s annual programme, and over the last three years 30 different groups regularly staged their productions at the Alexandra Theatre. In the last two years community groups have presented around 50% of the programme.
Demand for tickets
There is a need to respond to the theatre’s success in developing audiences for its artistic programme. Comedy and music nights sell out swiftly and the theatre cannot meet the demand for tickets. The pantomime is also extremely popular and there is a huge demand for tickets over the Christmas period. The bars are too small to cater for the audience for sold out performances and the theatre is losing money by not being able to capitalise on this captive market.
The tables below clearly demonstrate the success that the theatre is having in building audiences and in driving income, particularly for music, comedy, musical theatre and pantomime.
|Year||No of tickets|
There has been a 60% increase in ticket sales, amounting to a further 17,787 people, over a six year period.
Pantomime, music and musical theatre take the lion’s share of the programming at the Alexandra Theatre, with consistently high attendance. The theatre has doubled ticket income in the last four years.
Notes for Table 3
- All genres include a mix of community and professional programming
- Family programming includes the yearly pantomime
- Dance included ballet and dance schools
- Peak in drama in 2018 was due to the Gary Wilmot play in October
- Entertainment includes ‘evenings with’, mediums, variety shows etc
Demand for studio space
There is also a need for more studio space in the building. The Alexandra Theatre’s three studios are at capacity and the management has a long waiting list of organisations looking to hire space in the building.
In the last three years studio hire has increased from 5047 hours to a projected 5617 hours a year. The demand is clearly there as the theatre is having to turn potential business away every day. These studios are used by 35 community groups on a regular basis, but in 2019 95 different community groups hired the studios, up from 46 the year before. community hirers of the theatre also require access to studio space for rehearsals, while the Dance Festival in the February half-term requires all available space for both rehearsals and performance, putting further pressure on studio availability.
The theatre has also been successful in attracting meetings and conferences, for example West Sussex County Council hired all the studio spaces for a whole day in 2019, generating significant extra revenue from catering.
The Alexandra Theatre’s audience and potential for growth
New research was commissioned from Purple Seven specifically for this report to understand more about the current audience and to explore whether there were opportunities to grow this audience for a redeveloped theatre. We have attached this research at Appendix 5.
The Alexandra Theatre attracts a strong local audience, with over 60% of the audience living in the Arun district, and a further 19% from Chichester.
PO21 and PO22 comprise the core catchment area for the theatre and these postcodes account for up to 60% of revenue. This area includes the towns of Bognor, Pagnam, Barnham, Bersted, Felpham and Middleton-on-Sea.
Using the ONS’ output classification system, the venue’s data has been classified into seven supergroups, as shown in the bar graph below. These group households according to demographic structure, household composition, socio-economic characteristics and employment pattern. The three dominant groups attending the venue are Urbanites
(29%), Suburbanites (28%) and Rural Residents (16%), but as Purple Seven’s audience analysis clearly shows there is potential to grow this audience from other two other groups – Cosmopolitans and Multicultural Metropolitans, who are currently not attending the theatre on a regular basis.
Purple Seven has also identified two key areas to the east of Bognor Regis and one to the west where there is potential to grow the audience, with key postcodes being PO10, RH12, RH20 and BN12-17. Within the primary and secondary catchment areas there is a potential of a further 48,000 bookers for the theatre. ONS classification of current users of the Alexandra Theatre.
There is also potential growth within the existing database of attenders. The chart below summarises the relationship with bookers for events at the Alexandra Theatre and shows that 31% of the current audience is new to the theatre; by encouraging newly acquired customers to purchase again they are 35% more likely to attend again, becoming active customers.
Potential to build the audience
Local catchment area (blue): 30 minutes’ travel time to the theatre. Population: 199,864. Households: 88,351.
Regional catchment area (green): 60 minutes’ travel time. Population: 1,129,149. Households: 491,389.
In terms of bookers, visits and revenue the Alexandra Theatre has around a third of the market share within the core catchment area. The majority of the audience is making transactions elsewhere, for example at Chichester Festival Theatre, so there is a significant opportunity for the Alexandra Theatre to increase market share through dynamic programming, an improved offer for audiences in the building and by raising the theatre’s profile. We have asked for further analysis of the 94,000 bookers in the region so that we understand more about their interests and what genres they are attending elsewhere.
|Catchment||Other venues only bookers||Shared bookers||Venue only bookers||Grand total bookers|
3.6 Context for the redevelopment of the Alexandra Theatre
Demographic change and the growth of Bognor Regis
Bognor Regis is one of three major towns in the Arun district, along with Arundel and Littlehampton. Arun’s population is forecast to grow by 22,000 (14%) by 2031 and most of this increase (19,400) will be aged 60+. Projections also indicate that there will be 3,600 more children and young people up to the age of 24 living in the district by this date as more young people and families move into the area, taking advantage of affordable housing, the range of education on offer, and easy access to countryside and the seaside. Thousands of new homes will be built in Bognor Regis to accommodate this increase in population.
Bognor Regis is designated an Economic Growth Area in the Local Plan which involves an integrated approach to employment creation linked to skills development. The Enterprise Bognor Regis site will provide 4,000 jobs when fully developed and occupied, and there is employment space for the cultural and leisure sector. There are also plans to expand the University of Chichester Bognor Regis campus and new student accommodation will mean more young people staying in the town supporting the local economy and leisure and cultural organisations.
This development is particularly important for the Alexandra Theatre which hosts the University of Chichester’s musical theatre course. There are also plans for further university theatre courses which would be based at the Alexandra Theatre, and this potential increase in activity will put further pressure on the availability of studio and rehearsal space in
the building. If the Alexandra Theatre is to take full advantage of this expansion of the University it must improve its facilities and build new studio space. There are also potential training opportunities and internships, for example in stage management, lighting and sound, marketing and programming, which could be developed with the University in future.
Arun’s Economic Development Strategy 2020-25 puts great emphasis on the importance of Prosperous and Happy Communities – Putting People Centre Stage, which is a key part of Arun District’s future vision. The strategy recognises that with people living longer it is vital to maintain active and healthy lifestyles, and that social interaction and community cohesion are increasingly important. The theatre clearly has a key part to play in supporting the delivery of the District Council’s vision, by encouraging participation in events and courses and by providing spaces for community groups and local organisations to meet on a regular basis.
The strategy also recognises that Bognor Regis contains a number of disadvantaged communities with some of the areas in the most deprived 20% nationally. A key concern is that young people living in the region tend not to perform as well academically as those in other areas, and they are held back by low aspirations and confidence which is both damaging and hard to overcome. This is reflected in recent Key Stage 4 results, where the average Attainment 8 score was 43.5 in Arun in 2017/18 compared to 46.7 in West Sussex and 47.9 in the South East. In English and Maths the percentage achieving Grade 9 was 38.2% in Arun compared to 43.1% in West Sussex. The Alexandra Theatre should consider ways of working in partnership with local schools and colleges to support initiatives to develop skills for young people, particularly around confidence building.
The visitor economy
Bognor Regis is a major visitor destination and the Alexandra Theatre has the potential to be a key driver for the town’s night-time economy. Tourism is vitally important to Arun with around 4m visitors a year producing £221m of direct spend and supporting nearly 6,000 jobs. The largest share of this market, 3.43m people, are day visitors, but the 0.61m overnight visitors are key to the local economy given their higher spend in the area. It is perhaps no surprise that half of Bognor’s visitors stay in the town, either at Butlins or in local hotels and chalets. Most of these visitors stay for just under a week and 2/3 are repeat visitors. Arun District Council have recently commissioned tourism consultants, Blue Sail, to undertake a strategic review of tourism in the area6 and, following extensive consultation, they recommended that there was a need to lift the quality of the current offer and to develop new experiences to attract discerning visitors.
Place St Maur
Place St Maur is a large open barren public space alongside the Alexandra Theatre. Arun District Council has secured funding to transform this space and the proposed designs would replace the tatty tarmac with multi-coloured paving, and add proper landscaping, water jets, new lighting and seating. These improvements will help to attract more people to the immediate area, particularly during the day, and provide new opportunities for the Alexandra Theatre to attract more visitors into the building, boosting catering revenue and introducing new people to its programme of performances and courses. There could also be opportunities for the theatre to schedule small-scale performances in the square, particularly for families and young children, and to support annual events taking place on this site including ice skating and the folk festival.
Reversing perceptions of the town
‘While there are some solid examples of British seaside town’s fortunes turning around and becoming attractive brands in their own right - Margate, Hastings, Bournemouth, and Boscombe - Bognor Regis continues to punch below its weight and sometimes fosters negative perceptions both locally and nationally. However unfair these negative perceptions are, they are tangibly holding the town back from capitalising on its natural, historical, and cultural assets.’ Wayne Hemmingway
A consultation exercise was undertaken in 2017 with 690 local residents by Wayne Hemingway as part of a Place Branding exercise for Bognor Regis. Respondents felt that what makes the town unique is the proximity of beautiful coastline and countryside and the fact that is an affordable place for people to work, live and invest. However, it is seen as ‘dated, cut adrift, scruffy and lacking direction.’ The leisure and culture offer for young people was felt to be poor, with few places for them to hangout, though respondents mentioned the thriving amateur music scene which exists in the town.
The Place Branding report suggested that Bognor Regis needed ‘to break free from the reputation as a boring faded coastal town and the sadder side of seaside fun that give the impression of a town past its glory days’ and embrace a more youthful, vibrant and forward-looking future that is optimistic and presents opportunity, that is based in reality and doesn’t paper over the cracks.
The report suggests that Bognor Regis’ personality should be decisive and determined; progressive and embracing change; connected and creative; youthful, vibrant and skilled, and a proud coastal resort with timeless charm. The redeveloped Alexandra Theatre has a crucial role to play in helping Bognor Regis to change people’s perceptions of the town as outdated and lacking in direction.
The Alexandra Theatre faces significant competition for audiences from better funded and better provided facilities in the immediate region, particularly for drama. The leading competitor is Chichester Festival Theatre, a nationally funded producing house with a powerful reputation, regularly transferring work to the West End. The theatre undertook a major redevelopment in 2014 so it now has world-class facilities for audiences and performers. The Festival Theatre seats 1300 people and the associated Minerva Theatre seats 300.
To the East, and within 30 minutes’ drive time of the Alexandra Theatre, there are The Connaught Theatre (506 seats), The Pavilion Theatre (850 seats) and The Assembly Hall (906 seats) in Worthing. Worthing Theatres present a highly diverse artistic programme of drama, music, dance, exhibitions, film and education opportunities for people living in West Sussex and further afield. Beyond these there are the attractions of Brighton, with the Theatre Royal (952 seats) and The Dome (Pavilion Theatre, the Concert Hall and the Corn Exchange) and Portsmouth (New Theatre Royal, Kings Theatre and the Guildhall) all of which represent serious competition for the Alexandra Theatre for both touring product and for audiences living west of Bognor Regis.
3.7 A new auditorium
Increasing the seating capacity of the Alexandra Theatre makes sound commercial sense. Firstly, there would be the opportunity to maximise income from the pantomime, a very significant potential source of income. At present the Alexandra Theatre is the smallest theatre for which John Spiller Productions provides a pantomime. Secondly there is a very buoyant market in the middle scale for comedy, particularly high-profile performers looking for try-out venues. These performances are highly sought after and agencies favour venues with a greater number of seats, provided that the venue can effectively market the product. Thirdly a reconfigured auditorium would also allow for more seats in the centre by replacing the current central aisle; it would also provide opportunities for lower price seats towards the back and at the sides of the auditorium, thereby opening up greater access to the Alexandra Theatre’s shows for people on lower incomes.
An increase in seating to 450 would make a significant difference to Arun Arts without adding extra operational costs. However, we see no case for an increase beyond 450 seats; above that level the costs and risks would far outweigh the benefits. It is our belief that to attempt to operate a larger theatre would put too great a strain on the theatre’s capacity to market the seats effectively and thereby balance the inevitable increase in operating costs.
3.8 A new art gallery in the building
The addition of two gallery spaces would be a huge asset, both for the theatre and for the town. There is strong interest in arts and crafts locally and there are a large number of artists who would welcome the opportunity to show their work to a guaranteed audience. The gallery would also provide opportunities for local groups, such as the photographic society, and for schoolchildren to show their work. One of the new studios is designated to be a ‘wet space’ which would allow for weekly art classes.
3.9 Financial assumptions and projections
2024/25 is likely to be the first year of operation of the redeveloped theatre, if the building work is completed by autumn 2023. We anticipate that it will take a further 18 months to two years for the theatre to get back to its current operating level of activity of presenting over 200 performances on stage and hiring the studios to community groups and organisations. It is important that Arun Arts does not lose momentum during the closure period and continues to present work to small audiences within the stagehouse of the building. The stagehouse could also be used by community groups during the day for rehearsals, dance classes or meetings.
The theatre management team have used the last full operating year (2018/19) as a base and modelled the potential uplift in audience attendance and the potential increase in the financial return to Arun Arts once the redeveloped theatre is fully operational. This model is based on the assumption that the Alexandra Theatre will have a higher profile within Bognor Regis as a result of improved links between the town, the theatre and the beach; a redeveloped and more comfortable auditorium, with a further 100 seats; five new studios for hire by professional and community groups; and an improved front of house offer with a larger and more efficient café and bar able to maximise the return from the potential uplift in both day visitors and audiences in the evening. We expect that the redeveloped theatre and the larger auditorium will attract new touring companies and also promoters who are currently not including the Alexandra Theatre in their touring schedules because the current size of the auditorium severely restricts the financial return from the box office.
The financial model is conservative and assumes a 20% uplift on current activity once the theatre is fully operational and presenting in excess of 200 performances a year. We expect that paying audiences will rise from a current average of 47,000 to 55,000. This will lead to an increase in booking fees of around £5,000 a year. We also expect that takings at the bar will increase by up to £10,000 and at the café by £7,000 a year. Hire fees for the current three studios has averaged between £27,000 and £30,000 between 2018 and 2019; we expect that five new studios should produce a total return of £50,000 a year. Hire fees for theatre are currently averaging £112,000; we expect these fees will increase to £135,000 a year.
Overall we anticipate that the redeveloped theatre should produce an increased return to Arun Arts of £65,000 a year. We do not expect costs to rise in excess of inflationary increases as the new auditorium and new studios will not be any more expensive to operate than the current theatre; the building will be more energy efficient and maintenance and repair
costs, for example the ongoing problems with the roof, should be reduced.
|Alexandra Theatre. Potential for income growth following||Increase in revenue compared to 2018/19 income levels|
|Theatre hire income||£23,000|
|Studio hire income||£20.000|
We have attached outline financial projections at Appendix 6.
3.10 Recommendations concerning the redevelopment of the Alexandra Theatre
The theatre specialist architects, Burrell Foley Fischer, and theatre management consultant, Stephen Browning, have revisited the theatre and following extensive discussions with Arun District Council and the management team are recommending the following changes to the building:
Upgrade the auditorium to allow for 450 seats
Redevelop the auditorium to allow for an increase in seating capacity from 353 to 450, to improve facilities and sightlines for audiences and to meet increasing demand for tickets, particularly for music, comedy, musical theatre and the pantomime. The lighting and sound box at the back of the auditorium could be remodelled, allowing for increased seating. The new auditorium would also improve comfort for theatregoers and allow for proper ventilation in the building.
Meet the increasing demand for hired space by including 5 studios in the scheme, three more than currently accommodated
Respond to the increasing demand from community organisations for studio and rehearsal space by building 5 new studios with supporting facilities. This would also mean that the theatre could host all-day festivals and events throughout the building, including music, dance and literature and the Family Fun Weekend. Extra studio space would also allow for the
Alexandra Theatre to build its relationships with other cultural organisations, including Chichester Festival Theatre, the University of Chichester and Artswork, to support its youth theatre, musical theatre training and engagement with disadvantaged communities. One of the new studios in BFF’s accompanying designs has been designated a wet space with running water and sinks, allowing for painting and drawing classes.
Upgrade front of house facilities
Redevelop the bar, the café and the box office to make them more visible to audiences and visitors and to allow for shared staffing. We anticipate that the town centre improvements and the redevelopment of the Place adjoining the theatre will lead to an increased footfall and demand for catering during the day, and the theatre needs to be able to respond to this opportunity. A larger auditorium and a potential increase of a further 100 people in the audience also means that it is essential that the theatre’s bar can cater for more people in the building both before a performance and in the interval. The box office counter could be used to sell coffee and snacks in the interval, reducing queueing at the bar and speeding up the catering operation. Further pop-up bars could be sited in the gallery or in the studios to cope with the demand for drinks during sell-out shows.
Upgrade the kitchen facilities to allow for an improved catering offer.
Improve front of house layout
Improve the front of house layout to allow for increased use by audiences and visitors, both during the day and in the evening. BFF’s accompanying designs allow for up to 400 people in the central foyer, with opportunities for the audience to spill out during the interval into the adjoining gallery space or outside into the redeveloped Place St Maur.
Improve the relationship between the theatre and visitor routes from the town
Improve the way that the theatre relates to the key visitor route from the town to the beach as well as to The Place adjoining the Regis Centre, which is due to be redeveloped later this year. Visitors and residents should be encouraged to walk through the building itself so that they are able to enjoy a coffee in the foyer, find out what is on that evening, and experience the buzz and thrill of a working theatre, with dance classes taking place in one studio, a young people’s theatre group in another, and a jazz band rehearsing for a lunchtime event upstairs.
Upgrade the toilets
Increase the number of toilets to accommodate a larger audience and increased participation by community groups in the building during the day.
Add new gallery exhibition spaces into the building
Introduce two new gallery spaces to allow for regular exhibitions from local artists, photographic clubs, schoolchildren, and local charities.
Improve energy efficiency in the theatre
Respond to the need to make the building more energy efficient and reduce ongoing maintenance costs, particularly by using different roof materials.
The consultants agree that there is no requirement to change the stagehouse as the stage and the backstage facilities, including the dressing rooms, are more than adequate for the scale of presentation in the Alexandra Theatre.
3.11 Conclusion – A fit for purpose Alexandra Theatre for a revitalised Bognor Regis
Demand for the theatre’s facilities is already at capacity and likely to increase with the projected growth of the town We believe that a redeveloped theatre would make a major statement about the future of the town. It would be aligned with the regeneration of Bognor Regis and it would support the projected growth in residents, visitors, local businesses and the University of Chichester. There is a clear demand by the local audience for improved facilities and for a larger auditorium, and the current building cannot meet the demand by the local community for studio spaces, rehearsal rooms and meeting rooms.
There is clear potential to develop new audiences within the theatre’s immediate catchment area.
Our research clearly demonstrates that there is a wider audience within the immediate area who are highly likely to respond to an enhanced offer from the theatre. Improved facilities, greater visibility and a broader programme will be a key part of that offer.
Increased community engagement
A redeveloped theatre would also support new initiatives by Arun Arts to engage with disadvantaged communities in the immediate area. There is, for example, a large Polish community in Bognor Regis, which does not engage with the theatre at all, and Arun Arts is currently looking at the feasibility of engaging a part-time community engagement officer to make important links with this community and also with other disadvantaged groups in the town. External funding, for example from trusts and foundations, will be needed to facilitate this project.
Increased support for young people in Bognor Regis
We have also noted above (6.1) the concern that young people living in the region tend not to perform as well academically as those in other areas, and they are held back by low aspirations and confidence which is both damaging and hard to overcome. There is a real need for the theatre to support local schools and employers in addressing these issues. Extra studio space at the Alexandra Theatre would support this initiative by providing opportunities for specialist theatre companies and organisations to work with young people from Bognor Regis and provide skills training.
A redeveloped theatre would also support Arun Arts’ initiatives to create a more sustainable organisation. The increase in seating would allow the Alexandra Theatre to attract more touring product with the potential of an improved box return. Arun Arts will have the potential to generate a greater return from box office splits, from hire charges, from booking fees and from an increase in cafe and bar income. We expect that the redeveloped building could deliver an increase to Arun Arts of £65,000 a year.
The redevelopment would provide the opportunity to rebrand the theatre. There is potential confusion between the Alexandra Theatre and the Regis Centre, and we suggest that it would make sense if the building was referred to as ‘The Alexandra Theatre’ in future. The Alexandra Theatre, or the Alex, is more customer friendly and more appropriate.
The closure period
If the redevelopment goes ahead, the auditorium and part of the front of house area will be closed to the public for 12–18 months. However, it is important that Arun Arts continues to operate during this period and does not lose momentum so we suggest that there could be opportunities for small-scale performances and classes for up to 60 people on the stage, as all the facilities behind the safety curtain would remain intact. This will require a more detailed study in due course.
The new lease
If Whitbreads does decide to move from its current position adjoining the theatre there will clearly be opportunities for Arun District Council and Arun Arts to consider how best to utilise this prime site facing the sea. Our design for redeveloping the theatre stands whether or not the site opens up, but we have allowed for further phasing of the building if required.
Time for change
The Alexandra Theatre is a major community asset that has been kept open by a determined and committed Trust and by a large number of dedicated volunteers. But a deteriorating building will start to impact on the ability of the theatre to attract and retain audiences and community groups, both from Bognor Regis and from wider Arun district. It is time to redevelop the Alexandra Theatre.
4.0 Architectural analysis and brief
4.1 Site Analysis
The Alexandra Theatre forms part of The Regis Centre which was completed in 1980 as a comprehensive leisure facility. It was constructed on the site of the original Edwardian Theatre Royal Complex: a fine Edwardian sequence of spaces addressing the seafront promenade. The Regis centre included a 364 seat theatre, entertainment hall, restaurant space, cafeteria, bars, rehearsal studio and meeting rooms. A glazed concourse extended alongside the main auditorium reaching from the front entrance of The Alexandra Theatre on Belmont Street to the entertainment and leisure facilities at the seaward end, where a side entrance opens onto Place St Maur des Fosses.
The Centre has a difficult relationship to the town having been conceived as a stand-alone sculptural element with no obvious front or back, the expanse of sloping roof reducing in height at the perimeter to form relatively modest scale brick frontages. The effect is introverted and uninviting and the building is marooned in areas of open car park and sparsely landscaped spaces.
Approaching from the town through a sequence of inviting small scale shops including the Arcade, the theatre entrance is scarcely recognisable across Belmont Street. It is small scale and not aligned with the axis of the Arcade.
In 1996 the building was leased to Whitbread who split it internally into two parts: The Alexandra Theatre at the landward end and the Regis Brewers Fayre public house operated by Whitbread facing the Esplanade at the seaward end. A blank brick wall at the end of the glazed concourse divides the two parts and cuts the theatre from the sea. The Regis Brewers Fayre facing the Esplanade with its low profile scale and outlook is a disappointing architectural response to the seafront, which elsewhere reaches up to six or even seven storeys in height. Arun District Council has committed to a future phase addressing the problems of the Brewers Fayre building and expanding into the space with further cultural facilities anchored around the theatre. This will be a project to celebrate Bognor Regis as a vibrant, exciting and attractive seaside resort. On the east side of the Alexandra Theatre/Regis Brewers Fayre is a large area of car parking, facing which are the backstage areas of the theatre and scene dock door. On the west side of the theatre is Place St Maur des Fosses, currently a run-down area of predominantly hard landscaping which also serves occasionally as an area for market stalls. It faces the prevailing south-westerly weather, which can be windy but is also a suntrap on sunny days.
Arun District Council has developed a scheme for the Place St Maur including new landscaping, seating, lighting and planting as a first step toward regeneration and reconnection between the town and the seafront. The proposed new landscaping suggests a realignment of the scheme for the Alexandra Theatre proposed by BFF and Quartet in 2012. There is now an opportunity to open up the potential connection between the theatre and Place St Maur with a generous foyer enjoying well landscaped views. The opportunities for the theatre to improve connections to the town and respond to the new Place St Maur have been explored in our architectural proposals.
4.2 Building Analysis: Condition
The existing building is in poor condition, the narrative from our 2012 report still applies and there has been further deterioration:
“It is evident that the building was economically constructed in 1980. Largely bare brick and block walls have been simply painted over, with exposed services and large open volumes to the undersides of the roof in the auditorium and other supporting areas. The large roof areas of the building are finished in a simulated slate that is tired and in need of replacement. It is likely that it suffers during stormy conditions. The metal roller shutter to the scene dock door is rusting. The smoke vent at the top of the stage house has leaked from time to time and other parts of the building, including the auditorium finishes are looking equally tired.
The mechanical and electrical services in the building are now over 30 years old and effectively at the end of their useful life. The plant room located at first floor level is much larger than might be expected for a theatre of the size of the Alexandra Theatre and this is because it also serves the seaward end of the Regis Brewers Fayre. With improved insulation standards and new heating and ventilation plant, there would be significantly reduced energy costs.”
4.3 Building Analysis: Layout
While the theatre has reasonable sized spaces the layout is not interesting and fails to maximise the potential of the site. Our previous commentary still applies, and we summarise below:
Main Entrance, Box Office and Foyer Areas
There is sufficient space in the existing layout for the Box Office and Foyer areas, but despite the glazed roof over, which provides a good level of natural light, the outlook is generally inward looking, terminates at the far end of the concourse in a brick wall and is tired and uninspiring.
Bar and Café and WCs
The lack of good bar facilities is highlighted in the operational analysis as being a major drawback for the economic operation of the venue. From an audience perspective, a good bar serving drinks and refreshments is essential. The Café caters for daytime users as well as serving during performances. It is linked to an outside terrace, which is an advantage, but the general level of fit-out and finish is of a low order. The WCs are utilitarian and serve their purpose but are in need of an upgrade.
The meeting room beside the main entrance is a useful facility, but is basic, largely windowless with little connection to the outside and unappealing as an arts space.
The rehearsal studio off the main concourse is an asset to the venue (although not a generously sized rehearsal space for stage productions) and is used extensively for toddlers groups, dance and exercise classes, rehearsals, community meetings, etc. However, it is not a private space, particularly when viewed from outside the building, which can be off-putting and even intimidating for users unaccustomed to spectators from outside.
The theatre has good sightlines and a generous row-to-row spacing (900mm) but lacks theatricality and intimacy. It is interesting that lack of comfort is highlighted in feedback whereas the seat space holds up against current space standards. Perhaps this a function of the seats themselves which will be replaced in the proposed scheme. In addition the forbidding blank side walls and absence side seats contribute to a discomforting visitor experience. Side seats bring the magic triangle of three-way interaction: performer – audience – audience.
The auditorium currently has a capacity of 364 seats, which could be better laid out in the auditorium. The front, lower half of the auditorium seating is divided from the back half by a broad crossover aisle adjacent to the entrance into the auditorium. This is because the audience is led into the auditorium from one side only. The seating in the lower, front half of the auditorium has a central aisle leading down from the crossover aisle. A centre aisle is not preferred by performers, who prefer to look out at people, it also takes out some of the potentially best (centreline) seats.
Additionally the room is high, giving a rather barn-like ambience. Introducing overhead elements (acoustically transparent or reflecting as necessary), together with possibly a side technical shelf, would focus attention onto the stage.
The potential to enhance the existing sparse architectural treatment within the auditorium would much improve the theatrical experience for both performers and audiences.
Stage Area and Technical Theatre Systems
This section is based upon earlier conversations with the Theatre Manager and Technical Director and a visual inspection of the on-stage systems. The stage area is reasonably proportioned for a proscenium framed theatre of this scale. There is good headroom over the stage area, even though it would have been desirable to have a ‘squared off’ stage house roof at the upper levels extending over the whole wing area rather than the sloping pitches on either side of the stage. It is understood that a fly tower was proposed as part of the original design but was omitted as part of cost reductions at the design stage. A squared off extension to the front of the stage allows the fire curtain to be raised clear of the stage opening. A smoke vent is added into this extension, which is understood to leak from time to time.
A full height fly tower over the whole of the stage house area would have been a luxury rather than a necessity for a theatre of this scale as it would have added significantly to the original cost. While a fly tower would assist with staging the annual pantomime and other occasional shows intended to be flown, it is considered that the future performance product does not justify this high expenditure as a priority. Comparable new theatres serving the touring productions likely to visit Alexandra Theatre such as the Southampton New Arts Centre and the Berry Theatre Eastleigh have not been provided with a fly tower.
The current trend is for productions touring to small and mid-scale venues to be very economical in terms of staging requirements, performer numbers and musicians. For this reason the team also considers that the extension of the orchestra pit would not be a cost effective use of the likely available funds, Currently with capacity for 12 musicians, a larger pit would be expected in a No1 touring house or a large lyric theatre, not a theatre of the capacity of the Alexandra Theatre. An enlarged pit would also reduce the maximum audience capacity and significant additional backstage area would be needed to accommodate the orchestral players.
Generally, the theatre has adequate stage engineering, lighting, sound and technical communications systems to run the type of show currently performed. Additional loose equipment (radio microphones, luminaires, etc) is hired in for the largest, eg University of Chichester music theatre, productions – this is a sensible balance. It is understood that the equipment is subjected to appropriate safety checks. Certain items, for example the access to the lighting bridges, would be unlikely to meet code if installed today. However, whilst serviceable, much of the equipment appears outdated and close to, or past, its working life. All distribution is analogue, the industry is moving quite quickly to digital infrastructure and a refurbished theatre should at a minimum have a good 21st century technical systems infrastructure.
Items identified as priorities for replacement included the house curtain, on-stage curtain tracks, front of house paging and audio show relay, lighting bars (internally wired, ideally add one more), power winches for the lighting bars, higher capacity touring power provision and the dock door.
Scene Dock and Get-in
The scene dock area is adequate in size for a venue of this scale, although is limited in headroom over parts of the space. The scene dock door, referred to above is worn and corroded and not acoustically insulated from the exterior. There is more than sufficient height through the door opening itself, but this will need to be relocated when the surrounding site area is redeveloped.
The backstage areas are generally utilitarian in character, but not impoverished in the overall amount of space provided. There is a Green Room for actors and technical staff to relax and make refreshments; smaller scale dressing rooms with windows to the outside; a technical office, backstage wcs, store areas and larger scale dressing room spaces for larger casts, but these have no windows.
At first floor level, there are administrative offices spaces with glazed windows overlooking the concourse. These are located over the box office area with a short flight of stairs directly to one side for effective communication between the spaces. However, there is not a range of office spaces for a more sophisticated marketing department and other support staff.
Plans are available in the full PDF document.
Brief from Arun Arts
At a visit to the theatre with Arun Arts and ADC the following brief elements were highlighted:
"we're forever juggling space and finding room" Jo AA "we don't have the space to do as much as we would like to... when we need the space it's all fully booked" Hazel AA
- 2 new rehearsal/events spaces desirable (dance, yoga, tai chi, Brighton gay choir - bringing the party, weddings, birthdays, champagne screenings, classes, workshops, still life, artists, silent disco etc) including options for privacy as currently the space is too public facing;
- Break out rooms are needed;
- The theatre is a community hub – opportunities for multi-generational community engagement have kept it open over any years;
- Exhibitions: Previous Danny La Rue costume exhibition was very successful;
- Events: Dinner dances were popular;
- AA runs an education, learning & outreach programme;
- AA would like the opportunity to host outdoor bands, outdoor theatre, Sunday afternoon Jazz;
- AA would like to provide children's entertainment outdoors;
- AA runs a family fun week, animals come, spaces become a petting zoo, Shetland ponies, owls etc (would like opportunity to open the space out to the square);
- AA would like the cafe & catering offer to work for events and drop in customers;
- It would be good to have a vending machine;
- The staffing would need to increase in the future;
- Locker spaces would be useful;
- There should be a piano in every rehearsal room
- Furniture stores important + storage in studios
Brief from the Business Plan recommendations:
Increased auditorium capacity up to 450 seats;
Improve atmosphere and adjust layout;
Improve comfort – new seats;
Relocate the control room;
5 new studio/rehearsal space for community and other cultural organisation use.
Bar Café Foyer
Redevelop to cater for both theatre audience and external users: all day use;
Combine box office and bar to allow shared staffing;
Improve/increase visitors wcs;
Improve foyer space and connectivity.
New kitchen facilities.
Addition of 2 exhibition/gallery spaces – one to be a ‘wet’ studio space.
Improve the energy efficiency and carbon footprint.
Back of House
Replace deteriorating stage door.
Cost option to replace the roof.
5.0 Architectural proposals
Architectural drawings are shown in the original PDF version.
A phasing strategy is proposed allowing the theatre to be redeveloped with the Brewers Fayre public house still operational. A second, future phase is proposed if the Brewers Fayre is relocated and the sea-facing building redeveloped as part of the Regis Centre to provide additional facilities.
5.2 Front of House
The new front of house will have spacious facilities maximising connectivity with the surrounding streetscape and with Place St Maur and making the theatre a welcoming heart for Bognor.
The new entrance will be clearly visible at the end of The Arcade, the scale and openness of the design communicates both the importance of the building as a public place and welcomes visitors in to inviting spaces.
The new front of house will be focussed around an inviting long foyer space with glazed opening doors and windows overlooking the new Place St Maur. Access will be through a new entrance aligned with the existing Arcade on the North side and through sea facing doors at the South end.
The foyer will be served by a highly visible combined bar and box office counter with plenty of space to serve the increased audience capacity and a good line of sight from Place St Maur for passing clientele.
The lower level of the auditorium is entered from the foyer gallery stretching along Belmont Street. Stairs lead from the main foyer up to the upper level of the auditorium and a foyer balcony looking over the café bar and connecting to the new studio spaces.
New public wcs including a changing places wc are accessed via the gallery at the car park end of the foyer.
5.3 Studio Spaces
There are five new studio spaces accessed from the main foyer: Studio 1 in the ground floor with a direct connection to the café bar; Studio 2,3,4 at first floor around the upper foyer balcony and accessed by stairs and lift. These studios have a great outlook across the balcony and onto Place St Maur. Studios 3 and 4 have a sliding folding acoustic wall to allow them to be joined to form one big space.
Studio 5 at second floor adjacent to the offices with access to a terrace and break out space will also serve as a really good meeting room. All the studios will have good natural lighting with black out facilities.
5.4 Gallery Space
An exhibition space at ground floor along Belmont Street with good visibility from the street and easy access from the foyer - Phase two would include more ambitious gallery and exhibition spaces. Exhibition lighting would be carefully considered.
Entrances into the Auditorium
The new foyer enable audiences to enter the auditorium from both sides and two at levels with access by stairs and lift.
The seating layout in the auditorium is rearranged to remove the central aisle in the lower stalls area and the broad crossover aisle across the middle of the auditorium is also removed. In place of the centre aisle, side aisles serve the lower stalls area, while the two existing aisles serving the back of the stalls are retained. The seating rake will then continue cross the central crossover aisles at the same rake as elsewhere in the auditorium uniting the upper and lower level seating. Wheelchair positions are provided for adjacent to the entrance from the side passages, which are on a level with the foyers outside.
The character of the room will be transformed by converting the existing side passages and technical galleries above into slips seating positions, providing a sense of intimacy and enclosure by ‘dressing’ the side elevations of the auditorium with people.
By extending the side technical galleries to the rear of the auditorium, the floors of these galleries correlate with the rear row of the stalls, providing level access into these side seating positions at a level above the side passage entrances and slip seats.
The scheme ambition is to increase seating capacity up to 450 seats we think this achievable but will need detailed studies on seat design at the next stage.
A new control room is located at the rear of the auditorium, which shares access with the new foyer stairs and lift.
In these proposals, the structure of the stage house and orchestra pit have been left as they are, generally because they are of a reasonable spatial standard for a theatre of this size and should accommodate a wide range of theatrical programming. The cost of enhancing the stage house volume through a squared off extension of the stage house roof over the
wing spaces should be considered with the input of structural engineers.
The orchestra pit provides for small musical ensembles that might accompany staged performers in a venue of this scale. Enlargement of the orchestra pit by digging out the recessed floor of the front stalls area would be relatively expensive and reduce the seating capacity by extending into the front rows. The cost of enhancing the orchestra pit could be reviewed at the next stage. A system of forestage mechanical elevators/rostra could be introduced to open up a larger pit or sit level with the stalls floor to maximize seating capacity or be raised to stage level as a forestage extension.
5.6 Back of House
New offices are proposed at second floor, accessed by a new lift and stairs. The office has a meeting room and adjoins a break out space and Studio 5. The office opens onto a roof terrace overlooking Place St Maur and Belmont Street.
The existing dressing layout is functional and well located.
The existing front of house toilets and box office would be relocated to provide space for a generous catering kitchen at ground floor. Delivery access would be across the foyer – there is potential to reconsider this at Phase 2.
The existing Get In has good access from the car park and is well located for the stage and stage storage. The stage equipment should be reviewed with the Arun Arts Technical Director as it was deemed to be nearing the end of its working life in 2012. The analogue technical infrastructure should be brought up to date. Items identified as priorities for replacement in 2012 included: the house curtain, on-stage curtain tracks, front of house paging and audio show relay, lighting bars (internally wired, ideally add one more), power winches.
5.7 Greener Theatre
As part of the project the mechanical and electrical services would be replaced, looking for energy efficiency measures such as:
- Fabric first – improving the energy efficiency of the existing structure with new insulation and high performance glazing;
- Providing natural ventilation where possible;
- On site electricity generation through PV cells;
- Possible air source heat pumps;
- Heat recovery units;
- Installing low energy equipment including LED house lighting;
The scheme would also reduce carbon in construction by seeking to:
- Reuse materials where possible;
- Procure locally;
- Specify robust materials that could in turn be reused in future.
In this section there are a number of large tables and images which are not currently included in this HTML version as they are not easy to read on a web page. The appendices are available in the PDF version of this document beginning on page 43. If you need them in an another format please do get in touch using our email address on the previous page.