Alnwick Playhouse, Northumberland
Alnwick Playhouse reopened to the public in January 2020, heralding the completion of a £3.3m refurbishment which has added a community hub to the much-loved arts venue. The scheme enabled badly needed improvements and repairs to be undertaken to a building that had become the centre of the town’s social and cultural calendar as well as offering an efficient rationalisation of the Local Authority amenity space in the town by rehousing Northumberland County Council’s Library and Tourist Information facilities on the ground floor.
Originally built in 1925 as a cinema and music hall, with falling audiences the Playhouse had closed in 1979 before re-opening in 1983 as a small theatre venue for the Northumberland Theatre Trust (NTC) and sharing the venue with the Alnwick District Playhouse Trust (ADPT) who ran the auditorium, providing a variety of services. However, despite the best efforts of both staff and volunteers, the deteriorating fabric of the venue required major capital investment beyond the budget of either group but which has now been provided by its purchase by Northumberland County Council who have granted a 50 year lease to ADPT.
Northumberland County Council has contributed £2.5 million towards the cost of the work, with the Playhouse raising a further £800,000 to finance a new café and restaurant, refurbished auditorium, studio adaptations and full refurbishment throughout.
The Playhouse sits in a fairly restricted site facing onto Bondgate Without, in the centre of Alnwick. The whole purpose of the refurbishment has been to provide an improved Arts and Community Facility by re-modelling the interior, providing a refurbished restaurant and café, a new lift facility with back stage improvements and a new studio theatre, providing a dedicated safe space for work with children and young people. A new ground level entrance for wheelchair and buggy access, a refurbished bar area with additional toilets with a full refurbishment in the main theatre included improved leg room and a brand new hearing loop system making every seat user friendly.