Chelmsford theatres set for major £1.5m refit

A £1.5m refurbishment is being planned for council-owned theatres in Chelmsford.

It has now been decided that the best way forward for the Civic Theatre and the adjacent Cramphorn Studio is to undertake a complete modernisation programme, rather than smaller piecemeal projects.

A full scope of works is currently is being prepared by Chelmsford Council which will include complete internal refurbishment of the foyer area, bar and toilets in both theatres – following budget approval for £1m in February 2021.

The council says that increasing the budget by £500k should ensure the quality of refurbishment can be maintained and provide more cost assurance against volatility associated with construction and material costs, with shortages and increasing prices.

Additionally, the council says the budget uplift will also strengthen an application to Arts Council England for additional match investment which will cover the cost of exterior works, funding improvements to the theatre sound equipment and modernising the box-office systems at the same time which are not included in the requested £1.5m budget.

Cllr Marie Goldman told cabinet on November 16: “This is something that members of the public would like to see.

“The problem that we are facing is we have a building that is very constrained in its size. We are working with groups to come up with the best solution we can.

“I don’t know what that solution is going to be yet.

“We are aware of the issues and we are doing our best to resolve it.

“I would like to make clear is we are absolutely improving disability access into the theatres and the facilities.”

The Civic Theatre, with a capacity of 505 over two levels, and the Cramphorn Studio, with capacity of 165, have been badly hit by COVID – the council estimates it has lost more than £400k of income from the theatres.

Chelmsford Council Leader Stephen Robinson added: “The theatre project is also designed to generate extra revenue for the council as well.

“The point of the capital investment is to support the revenue budget.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter