The UK’s oldest working theatre in its original form, The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, has been awarded a £20,000 (US$28,077/€23,022) grant to improve its environmental sustainability. The Grade I-listed theatre will use the funding to replace old boilers and install a new building management system to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its heating and ventilation.
The funding is part of an initiative by Theatres Trust, in partnership with the Wolfson Foundation, whereby £100,000 (US$140,352/€115,123) has been awarded to five venues across the country through its Theatre Improvement Scheme.
The work will coincide with the ongoing Auditorium Development Project funded by the Hamish Ogston Foundation, which was given the green light in 2020 to provide new, more comfortable seating, and improved views of the stage. Construction work has taken place during the enforced COVID-19 closure period and is scheduled for completion in Spring 2021.
The money from Theatres Trust is in addition to grants from the Pilgrim Trust, the Foyle Foundation and the Normanby Trust, which are also supporting the heating and ventilation work.
“We are extremely grateful to the Theatres Trust and Wolfson Foundation for this very generous donation,” said Clare Allen, chief executive of The Georgian Theatre Royal. “The previous system was only operating at around 65-70% efficiency, so this will not only provide a much greener solution, but one that will also give vastly superior results.”
“It is the icing on the cake that the replacement of the building management system can take place alongside the main work to the auditorium,” continued Allen. “We are hugely grateful to all our funders for supporting a collective funding package that means that when our doors do finally open, we will be able to enjoy a smart, comfortable auditorium with better air quality and a well-regulated temperature.”
The theatre said that before the pandemic took hold, the biggest challenge facing the sector was responding to the climate crisis. Theatres Trust, the national public advisory body for theatres, remains committed to this priority. Theatres, like all public buildings, have an impact on the environment, with major energy consumption coming from heating, ventilation, stage machinery and lighting.
As well as The Georgian Theatre Royal, four other UK theatres received funding in this round of grant applications for the Theatres Trust/Wolfson Foundation scheme – Chichester Festival Theatre, Lyric Theatre Belfast, The Marlowe in Canterbury and Northern Stage in Newcastle. A further £360,000 (US$505,450/€414,529) will be made available over the next three years.
“Despite the immediate issues caused by COVID-19, it is imperative that we continue to focus on the long-term environmental sustainability of the theatre sector,” said Jon Morgan, director, Theatres Trust. “This can be particularly challenging for historic theatre buildings, so Theatres Trust is delighted to be able to support The Georgian Theatre Royal in its quest to be more sustainable.”
“The volume and quality of the applications we received for this scheme shows there is a real appetite amongst theatres to make environmental improvements to their buildings,” he added.
The Georgian Theatre Royal hopes to open for historic guided tours and live performances as soon as it is safe to do so and government guidelines allow.