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Rotherham theatre prepares for reopening night

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There has been a change of scenery at Rotherham Civic Theatre as a £200,000 revamp enters its final act.

Rotherham Civic Theatre has not traded since March 2020 due to Covid restrictions and is set to reopen in September.

Operators, Rotherham Council took the difficult decision to close the facility for the entire financial year but secured financial backing from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. £55,272 from the second round adds to the £131,644 secured from the first round of the Arts Council England administered fund.

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The Council contracted Pacy & Wheatley Ltd on a £227,856.54 tender to carry out a refurbishment of the front of house and bar areas at the building on Catherine Street in the town centre.

Accommodating a range of touring and local musical, comedy and theatrical performances, the converted church was purchased by the Council prior to being converted into a theatre in 1960.

Jo Longwith, manager at Rotherham Theatres, said: “We took the opportunity to get work done with the intention that we were going to reopen as soon as we could. That kept moving further and further away and in the end we decided to take the opportunity to try and open in September of 2021 hoping that all restrictions are then lifted, but in that time, hope that we could get some work done in order to welcome the audiences back.”

Damien Gwatkin, operations manager at the Civic, added: “It will help us and it will help the customers because the customers will have a better visitor experience. They’ll come in, they’ll see that there’s less queuing, there’s more open spaces, it’s more inviting. It will be easier for us. In a busy interval you’ve got 15 minute turn around, you’ve go to serve 356 people. Hopefully the changes that we have made will expedite that and everybody gets served in enough time, everybody gets some drinks and it’s just a more welcoming space.”

Local singer and songwriter, Lauren Housley, is the first scheduled show in September. Lauren, said: “I am completely buzzing to announce that I will be playing an actual LIVE live show in my hometown. We are playing the official re-launch of the Rotherham Civic Theatre and their first show since March 2020.

“[Recently released album] Girl From The North was written and recorded in our studio in Rotherham town centre, just five minutes walk from the theatre, so it feels like a full circle coming back and playing this album in this theatre with the full band! I think we all need this after the year we’ve had.”

Events are also planned to tie in to Rotherham Show.

The revamp also gives operators more flexibility around what the building can host in the future. Leanne Buchan, head of creative partnerships and engagement at Rotherham Council, said: “I think this was about opening up the spaces and being more flexible so we’ve got 356 seats auditorium, and that’s brilliant, but it means that we can only take certain shows of a certain scale.

“The spaces that we’ve created in the bar and the new kind of performance area in the coffee shop mean that we’ve just got that bit of flexibility. So the one in the coffee shop is sort of 30 to 35 audience size and it’s a really flexible space you can show films on there. You can do puppet shows on there.

“It opens up the opportunity to do schools programmes that we’ve not really had before outside of panto and the one in the bar is a much more flexible and informal space so we can do things like comedy nights in there. We can do open mike nights in there. So on those nights when we don’t have a show in the auditorium it means that we can still have activities happening in the theatre.”

Images: RMBC

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Tom Austen
Tom grew up in Aston, Rotherham and studied Human Geography at Nottingham Trent University before developing a passion for promoting Rotherham and a nose for a good story.

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