The Association of British Theatre Technicians

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MAY 2015




ABTT Members’ Visit to Chichester Festival Theatre, to be followed by a special ABTT Industry Supporter’s Group Forum (Open To All Members)

Chichester Festival Theatre

Image credit Philip Vile

View the Video Postcard here.

RSVP via email here to the office by Monday 11th May.

Download the pdf. flier here   ABTT Theatre Visit and ISG Forum_Chichester Festival Theatre West Sussex   for full information, directions & travel notes.

Date: Friday 15th May 2015

Venue: Chichester Festival Theatre, Oaklands Park, Chichester, West Sussex, PO19 6AP


Schedule for the day:

1:00pm: Gather for tea/coffee/biscuits in the Minerva Brasserie

1:15pm: Festival Theatre for and introduction and overview by:

Alan Finch, Executive Director, Chichester Festival Theatre

Dan Watkins, Renew Project Director, Chichester Festival Theatre

Lucy Picardo, Project Architect, Haworth Tompkins

Sam Garner-Gibbons, Technical Coordinator and Head of Lighting, Chichester Festival Theatre

Alex Wardle, Theatre Consultant, Charcoalblue

2:00pm: Guided Tours to include the new backstage building and lighting bridges, as well as a peek at the 65,000 litre (approx) water tank installed for the current production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Way Upstream.


ABTT Industry Supporters’ Group Forum:

3:00pm: Gather for tea/coffee/biscuits in the Roddick Room

3:15pm: ISG Spring Forum: Chichester Festival Theatre ‘The Reunion’ (Open to all members)

Led by Irving Wardle (theatre critic), a discussion of the theatre making in the Chichester Festival Theatre.

Q&A with the Project Team & ISG Forum participants: Jonathan Church (CFT Artistic Director), Edward Petherbridge (actor), David Wood (actor/playwright), Pamela Howard (designer), Mick Hughes (lighting designer) and Sam Garner-Gibbons (CFT Technical Coordinator/Head of Lighting).

4:30pm: Departures

‘Everything we are doing is for the audience. Otherwise it has no purpose’. Jonathan Church

A Festival Theatre is Born

Chichester Festival Theatre was founded by a former city mayor, Leslie Evershed-Martin, following an idea he had whilst watching a television programme in 1959 about the Tyrone Guthrie Theatre Festival in Stratford Ontario, Canada. Working tirelessly he gained the support of Chichester City Council, identified a suitable site for a seasonal festival theatre in a form inspired by the revolutionary design of the Canadian theatre, motivated local individuals and businesses and raised the £105,000 needed.

Following the Stratford model, the architects, Powell and Moya, developed a theatre that arranged the auditorium around a stage that thrust itself into the centre of the audience, combining ancient Greek and Roman precedents with elements of Elizabethan theatre. The Theatre opened its doors in 1962 under the leadership of its inaugural Artistic Director, Sir Laurence Olivier.

Restored, Refreshed, Renewed

In November 2005 Jonathan Church was appointed Artistic Director, alongside Executive Director, Alan Finch. During the theatre’s celebratory 50th Anniversary year in 2012 this directorship saw the Renew project begin, with the demolition work commencing in October.

This modern upgrade of the Grade II* listed building – undertaken as the building was operating on a scale way beyond what was envisaged when it originally opened in 1962 – has incorporated essential repairs, a new extension, increased seating capacity, enhanced access and public facilities, greatly improved visitor and backstage areas, and made the necessary alterations to achieve greater energy efficiency.

The £22 million refurbishment was made possible by Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, local businesses, trusts and individuals, as well as West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council.

It reopened in June 2014, ready for the first production of the Festival Season in July. A temporary auditorium, Theatre in the Park, was erected for the 2013 season.