Planning go-ahead for children’s theatre

Southwark Council has given the go-ahead to Unicorn's plans for a new children's theatre on the More London site in Tooley Street.

Architect's model of the new theatre (Photo: Eamonn O'Mahony/Architects: Keith Williams Architects)

Due to open in 2004 the new theatre will offer children from Southwark and other London boroughs a year-round programme of theatre and creative projects. The new complex will contain a 350-seat main auditorium, a 120-seat studio theatre for work for young children, storytelling and workshops, an education studio dedicated to projects, workshops and drama groups with children, families and teachers and a rehearsal studio.

Public areas of the building will host performances, exhibitions and a café. Unicorn's Artistic Director Tony Graham said, "The theatre will be a public space that is accessible to all and welcoming to children, their families and schools. This has been reflected in the design of all the performance, education and front-of-house spaces, and will result in the whole building being brought to life by a creative programme of theatre and arts education projects designed and produced specifically for children."

To pave the way for the opening of the new theatre, Unicorn has launched an education and community programme for local children, families and schools. Funded by the Pool of London Partnership, Unicorn's programme will develop community and cultural participation opportunities with young people in North Southwark over the next 5 years.

The grant will fund activities to include education projects in local schools, workshops for schools, families and teachers, a Community Summer Programme for the launch of the new theatre and a Schools Performance Festival. The partnership is also funding tickets for local schoolchildren in financial hardship to see Unicorn productions.

Speaking at an event to launch the Programme last week, Unicorn's Tony Graham said, "Once open, Unicorn's new theatre will make a valuable contribution to the community and will complement the arts participation programmes of other Southwark organisations. Productions, projects and workshops in the new building will offer many ways for Southwark children and residents to become involved in our work. In the meantime, Unicorn's 5-year Community and Education programme will develop links with the community and has the opportunity to make a real difference in the cultural and creative life of local children."

The new theatre will cost £11.25 million and the project has already received substantial support from public agencies: the Arts Council of England (with Lottery funds) have awarded £4.5 million and the Pool of London Partnership have awarded £1.2 million. The remaining funds will be raised from private and public sources.

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