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Community Theatre refurbishment design plans explained by local architect

Planning permission has been granted for the refurbishment and upgrade of the Sutton Community Theatre, which will be rebranded as ‘Cornerstone’ upon re-opening and designed by Nottingham-headquartered CPMG Architects.

The Cornerstone project aims to transform the existing theatre into a vibrant multifunctional entertainment space, catering to a wide range of events including professional theatre performances, cinematic experiences, music and comedy nights, academy concerts, and various community uses. 

The Cornerstone project 2
The upgrades come at a crucial time as the existing facilities age and face issues including a failing heating system, outdated lighting, inoperable microphone systems and inadequate changing rooms.

 The scope of works will largely be internal, providing complete renovation, refurbishment and reconfiguration to optimise the functionality of the theatre through enhanced facilities. 

 

Steve Milan, associate at CPMG Architects, said: “This represents a significant step forward in the efforts to bring the vision of Cornerstone to life, and providing the community with a space that is truly fit-for-purpose and something all can take pride in. The approval underscores our commitment to delivering architectural solutions that not only meet the functional needs of our clients but also enrich the fabric of the communities they serve. 

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The Cornerstone project 3
This includes the creation of a new theatre foyer, refurbishment of the auditorium, upgrades to the stage area, provision of new dressing rooms and backstage facilities, and installation of modern lighting and audio-visual systems. 

“While the entrance to the theatre will remain unchanged from a practical perspective, a new foyer will be created at the front of the building, relocating several offices to create the new space and visitor facilities. In addition to the internal upgrades, there are several external improvement works planned, including recolouring the fly-tower cladding and installation of signage for Cornerstone’s new branding – all designed to be visible from the surrounding streets.” 

The existing auditorium space will be given a complete refurbishment, with new flooring, ceiling, acoustic wall treatments and doors. A new retractable seating installation will provide 168 tiered seats, and specialist lighting will be installed throughout, to cater for a range of events. Meanwhile, a newly constructed balcony will provide a further 24 seats and space for wheelchair users. 

Backstage, existing areas will be completely stripped out to reconfigure the space to suit modern requirements. This will see replacement of narrow staircases, two new dressing rooms, a performance green room and shower facilities on the upper ground floor. On the first floor, a further two dressing rooms will be created along with a laundry room, theatre workshop and housing for amplifier and lighting dimmer equipment.

A key focus of the refurbishment is sustainability and energy efficiency. A comprehensive strategy has been developed to ensure that all upgrades meet the highest standards of efficiency and minimise carbon footprint while working within any constraints. This includes the integration of passive design measures, efficient engineering approaches and the use of natural daylighting where appropriate, and heat recovery systems. 

John Bennet, executive director of place at Ashfield District Council, said “This project will help us achieve our goals of creating a vibrant and safe night-time economy in Ashfield. As the new Planetarium will connect young people to space and raise their aspirations, Cornerstone Theatre will ignite their creativity and imagination. We are so proud to be investing in arts and culture, to allow more people of all backgrounds, young and old, in Ashfield and beyond to experience the magic of cinema, live theatre and music in an easy-to-access place.

“All our regeneration projects, funded through over £100 million external investment, have the common aim – to create an Ashfield that is a great place to live, work, play, study and visit.”

The Sutton Community Theatre project is one of those under Ashfield District Council’s Future High Streets funding programme through the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), aiming to raise perceptions of the town and to contribute towards a vibrant and safe night-time economy in Sutton. 

Stage Right Theatre Consultancy has been appointed to specify the theatre lighting and audio-visual systems. 

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