We’re Raising the Roof in 2019…
As we look towards 2019 and celebrating our 21st year with an exciting transformation, it seems a good time to reflect back on some highlights of the last 6 months and key achievements since the closure of our building in June.
The first few weeks saw HFC staff packing up furnishings and technical equipment to go into storage so the keys could be formally handed over to Kier. We loaned or relocated some of our equipment to the community; our treasured Steinway piano found sanctuary at St Mary’s Church in Penzance, some of the rehearsal flooring is being used by associate dance company James Wilton and original auditorium seating is being used across Cornwall.
The formal handing over of the keys by one of our young HFC performers to contractors Kier at the end of September, marked a key milestone in our redevelopment. Next came 21st birthday celebrations in November, a coming of age celebration that toasted the future with unique performances from our Youth Theatre & Dance Groups.
The Arts Development team remain busy in the community supporting schools, resident companies and associate artists. A co-production with o-region and Palores Productions in November brought new audiences to the historic miners’ chapel in St Just; artist led projects were supported via our flagship programme Creation Space, including digital sound artist Justin Wiggan and Prodigal UPG, a parkour performance company.
Autumn also saw us piloting a Stage to Screen season with an exclusive partnership with Truro Plaza Cinema which brought leading West End theatre practitioners in person to Truro. Award-winning director Michael Grandage discussed his Tony Award-winning play RED ahead of its screening and leading West End Executive producer and General Manager, Jo Benjamin, shared bringing The King and I to the London Palladium and gave sound theatre career advice to the school children in the audience.
We continue to champion our young people, with weekly Youth Theatre and Dance companies. This year, they have participated in projects across the county and beyond; from participation in Danny Boyle’s national event Pages of the Sea marking 100 years since the end of the First World War, to a unique performance at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital. Congratulations to 17-year-old Ned Ratcliffe, a member of our HFC Youth Dance since aged 9, who has recently been awarded a place at the National Youth Dance Company. One of the growing numbers of HFC alumni gaining places at nationally renowned dance and drama schools.
So what of our redevelopment?
Those of you who follow our social media updates will have seen dramatic changes inside the building. Our time lapse cameras are capturing it all. This first phase has been all about demolition. Kier have stripped the interior of the auditorium, removing the seating, the lighting rigs and the balconies. Other works include removing the fixtures and fittings in the bar area, the dressing rooms, the Boscawen foyer and Back Quay. This has resulted in some great finds – including the discovery of beautiful original Cornish stonework along the back wall behind the ‘long bar’ area.
Kier are working carefully to protect the original granite columns, steps and floors from the impact of the building works and are recycling as much of the material as possible. Speaking of recycled materials….at the end of last year Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum offered us wood from a replica Bronze Age boat built five years ago using traditional tools. We were delighted to accept and some of the Cornish oak planks will now have a new lease of life in our new building.
Redevelopment is now moving into the construction phase. Our new three-tiered auditorium will have 300 extra seats, allowing for larger scale shows to be premiered for the first time in Cornwall. To achieve this we need to - quite literally - raise the roof, elevating it by 2.5 metres to accommodate an extra tier of seating. Kier are currently constructing a temporary weather proof roof to enable the current roof to be removed so new columns, rafters and supporting beams can be erected to increase the height. The roof will then be replaced.
2019 looks set to be a very busy year as we prepare for the opening of our new theatre. The project remains on schedule to reopen Autumn 2020 and we are currently working on putting together our first season together to welcome people back to our new home.
As I watch the progress of our redevelopment and the biggest transformation in our history – I am truly excited that the future will allow us to open up the power of performance to more people than ever and give Cornwall the new theatre it deserves. We’re creating a new kind of public space in the heart of our county; a place where all are welcome, where everyone can see the work they crave, where Cornwall’s creative talent can break new ground and where our next generation can be supported. It’s going to be an exciting new year.