Arcola Theatre plans new space
London theatre news: Monday 26 October 2020
Off-West End - Theatres
Dalston's Arcola Theatre plans to build a new outdoor performance space and bar, designed by multi-award-winning stage designer Jon Bausor.
Image (c) Jon Bausor
Arcola Theatre closed its doors on 15 March 2020, suspending all its performances "in order to avoid contributing to the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus)".
The venue was ahead of the curve - the government finally ordered theatres to close on 20 March.
However, since August, indoor and outdoor performances throughout London's theatre world have been officially permitted.
Now, the Arcola has announced plans to build a completely new outdoor performance space to be called Arcola Outside.
The space is set to include a fully-stocked bar and is designed by multi-award-winning stage designer Jon Bausor, and realised by a team of freelance theatre and live events technicians.
The space will be built on a site near the theatre's main building on Ashwin Street, formerly home to the Arcola Tent between 2011 and 2014 and is scheduled to open for a series of trial performances this December.
The aim is to reimagine Arcola's performance spaces and bar, bringing them together under a giant roof.
Jon Bausor, designer of Bat Out Of Hell, The Grinning Man and the 2012 Paralympic Games opening ceremony, is collaborating with Arcola to create a space which prioritises audience safety, operating year-round with protection from the weather, the full airflow benefits of an outdoor environment and flexible socially-distanced seating.
Under the Tier 2 restrictions which London is currently subjected to, its outdoor location will allow groups (of up to 6 people) to meet even if they are from different households.
Arcola Outside will reaffirm the Arcola's longstanding commitment to environmental sustainability using reclaimed and recycled materials and featuring planters to create a green environment and ensure social distancing.
Arcola's executive Director Dr Ben Todd said:
"The health and safety of our audiences, artists and staff is an absolute priority for us.
Arcola was one of the first theatres to close in March, to avoid contributing to the spread of Covid-19.
By going outside, we are significantly reducing the risk of airborne transmission of the virus.
By creating more space for social distancing, we are significantly reducing the risk of droplet transmission too.
We will have rigorous Covid-security protocols, and will be working with expert partners including scientists and researchers at leading universities to prepare for reopening of our main building when it is safe and viable."
Co-founders Mehmet Ergen and Leyla Nazli commented ...
"We are likely to be living with Covid-19 for some time, and it's so important that we find new and safe ways of working.
Arcola Outside will enable us to welcome audiences back, and to create new opportunities for freelance artists and workers who are such a vital part of our industry and society.
This year has been the most challenging in Arcola's 20-year history, but with Arcola Outside and our exciting plans for new shows, we are coming back from the brink."
Arcola Outside will also be the central hub for a Hackney-wide festival of outdoor performance, Today I'm Wiser, which Arcola plans to produce in 2021.
Inspired by the present and fuelled by a collective desire for change, the festival will platform a wide range of artists and reunite them with the community after this historic time of upheaval, reviving public space and celebrating creativity.
Arcola's survival has only been possible thanks to lifeline support from individual donors, Arts Council England and the Government's Culture Recovery Fund.
The theatre has launched a fundraising campaign to enable the completion of Arcola Outside and its plans for new shows next year.
Productions that were due to be staged in this year's 20th anniversary season will be rescheduled.
Arcola Theatre website
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