Derby Theatre "hopeful" of building new studio

Steve Orme

Derby Theatre is hoping to build a new studio attached to its main house—but needs to find £10 million to expand.

Artistic director and chief executive Sarah Brigham said capital plans were at a very early stage. “With increasing audiences and participants, and a greater focus on producing work in-house, we need more rehearsal space, more learning space and a place for our wardrobe, set and props.

“We’ve had lots of initial discussions across the city about the possibilities of partners helping us in this area but, with no solution forthcoming, we’re now looking at how we improve our current footprint. 

“In the coming months, we’ll start to consolidate what we need and approach partners to come on board to help us realise our ambition of taking more great theatre to more people.”

The University of Derby reopened the old Derby Playhouse in 2009 and renamed it Derby Theatre. The main house seats 535 and the studio a maximum of 110 seats. The theatre has gone through a huge transformation and, according to Brigham, it is bursting at the seams.

“Our audiences are well above the national average. The national average is about 59%, we’re about 67% (capacity). We have about 110,000 visitors through the doors every year. We also have between 15,000 and 18,000 young people that we work with every year and basically our space is too small.”

She said the theatre had looked at various options and the current one was to expand on its existing site. The theatre has had conversations with the university about funding and Arts Council England might contribute.

Brigham also revealed that in 2016 Derby Theatre wanted to move to the Assembly Rooms in the city which has been dark since a fire in 2014. But the city council did not feel there was enough room for both organisations on the same site.

The theatre is hoping the planned expansion might happen within the next five years.