Upgrading a classic venue to meet modern demands

By MJC Event Engineers
Read more

Listed buildings are considered to be living history. However, when those buildings are used as commercial venues, as is the case with theatres (at least once restrictions allow), there is often a push and pull between maintaining that history, and the need to meet the demands of modern productions. And finding that balance is where MJC can help.

So where do you start when it comes to refurbishing, altering or generally improving the way your theatre can house your audience, performers and lighting rigs? 

It’s important to note that when a building is listed, it isn’t just the outside of the property that is protected. The entire structure, including any internal features, is also protected. This means any internal changes you are considering will require the relevant listed building consent to be requested. And this process isn’t straightforward. 

Many architects have found planning consent applications refused, often for no clear reason. However, as Mike Jackson has discovered over his years of consulting on theatre remodelling projects, it is often the case that you simply need to have the right team, with the right experience of working with listed buildings, to ensure the process can proceed successfully. 

As Mike explains:

“From surveys, through to design, consent and construction… with the right knowledge, and the right expertise, it’s entirely possible to modernise and improve interior facilities while still meeting those stringent permission requirements. MJC have consulted on many such projects over the years, on landmark venues in the capital and beyond.” 

Modernising theatres

Modern theatre productions have evolved in their scale and ambition over the last few decades. And this has placed more demand on venues to increase the available stage space, alongside a need for larger rigging volumes. And while the pandemic has seen many productions cancelled or postponed, it’s likely producers and directors will continue this trend once the industry has begun recovery.

“Our work on the Grade II listed Shaftesbury Theatre, which was built in 1911, involved consulting on the designing and construction of a new fly tower,” Says Mike Jackson. 

With a looming deadline, which in this case was the opening of the ‘Motown’ blockbuster show, there was little room for complications. And with the venue struggling to maintain its reputation as a leading large-scale musical theatre, the existing timber-framed fly tower had become a limiting factor in their commercial success.  

To ensure the project could meet the necessary planning permission required when working on a listed building, MJC came up with an innovative solution that would not only be capable of significantly increased rigging volume from new the fly tower, but would also complement the theatre’s historic settings. 

As Mike says:

“We accommodated windows, smoke vents and other requirements into the design, while using sympathetic materials, in this case fabricated weathering steel panels that complemented the terracotta in place on the building, as well as nearby brickwork. The results speak for themselves.”

And as it happens, the stunning new fly tower on the Shaftesbury may one day become regarded as a piece of living history itself. 

Next news item

MJC’s approach to West End theatre signage

27th Nov 2020

View Article
All news