Hullabaloo in Darlington!

Peter Lathan

The Hullabaloo, a new national centre for children’s theatre, opens to the public in Darlington today.

The £2.7m project has been created by Theatre Hullabaloo, North East specialist producer of theatre for young audiences, inside an Edwardian Fire Station on a site next to the newly refurbished Darlington Hippodrome. As a national centre of theatre for young audiences and an inspiring place to play and learn, it will present performances for children, house creative play installations, offer a wide range of creative opportunities and classes for families and be a focal point for creative education.

“We believe that every child should have the opportunity to experience and take part in arts and cultural activity,” said Darren Henley, Chief Executive, Arts Council England, “and that this is crucial to developing imagination, self-expression and creativity.

“I'm delighted to be opening Theatre Hullabaloo's new venue—it is a wonderful space where children can play, learn, be creative and watch performances especially for them. I'm sure that it will be welcomed by families and communities across the North East and I'm pleased that we have supported it through our National Lottery funded capital programme.”

“I can't believe that this wonderful venue for children and families is now a reality, here in Darlington,” said Miranda Thain, Creative Producer at Theatre Hullabaloo. “Next week, The Hullabaloo will be welcoming the first children through its doors and becoming that place where their imaginations can run free in a place specially designed for them.”

"The Hullabaloo truly is vision-led. We have created a space that is child-centred, where children are respected as an audience and where brilliant artists make great theatre and great places for them to play.

"The arts and creativity have a fundamental role to play in the growth and development of children and their understanding of an increasingly complicated world. The Hullabaloo will be a great asset, not only to Darlington but the wider region, and the whole of the UK too, a beacon for the value of that precious place in childhood where you have room to dream and imagine."

The Hullabaloo is a partnership between Theatre Hullabaloo and Darlington Borough Council. The total cost for the capital development, £2.8m, is funded mainly through grants from Arts Council England and Darlington Borough Council, alongside funding from trusts & foundations.

The former base for Theatre Hullabaloo, Darlington Arts Centre, closed in 2012 as part of the austerity cuts by local authorities. Following the arts centre's sale, the council committed the majority of the funds—around £800,000—to invest in a theatre aimed at young audiences, working with the nationally recognised company.

“This is a wonderful new facility for our young people which we're delighted to have been able to support,” Cllr Bill Dixon, Leader of Darlington Borough Council, added.

“Together with the recent refurbishment of the Darlington Hippodrome, we have seen a multi-million-pound investment in the arts in Darlington to create a theatre quarter catering for all ages for generations to come.”

The new venue includes a 150-seat studio theatre, creative play installation space, family café area, rehearsal studio and external play space, and the first production in the theatre is a revival of the 2015 show Bear and Butterfly by Annie McCourt, based on an original story by Gordon Poad, which runs until 31 December.