We are delighted to share with you an update on the redevelopment plans for The Octagon Theatre that will see the current building transformed into a flagship venue for the arts and entertainment.
We have now reached the end of RIBA Stage 2 and would like to share with you the latest visuals and plans for the development of The Octagon Theatre as our ideas take shape. We have also been undertaking consultation and feedback from our audiences and non-users of the theatre to shape the facilities and offer for the future. There will be further opportunities to engage and provide feedback and ideas as we progress and further opportunities to explore the plans and see the proposed transformation of the theatre.
Later this week, Councillors / Members of South Somerset District Council’s (SSDC) District Executive Committee are set to decide whether to recommend to their fellow Councillors at Full Council to increase the budget, which has been affected due to an unprecedented demand for materials and labour within the construction sector - much like many building projects across the UK.
Adam Burgan, Arts and Entertainment Venues Manager said: “Our plans for The Octagon are to create a flagship centre for the creative arts that will provide amazing opportunities for our residents and bring world class artists to Somerset. The plans see The Octagon Theatre transformed into a centre of excellence that will spark economic regeneration for the area and so many opportunities for residents to improve their well-being. The venue will mean less trips out of the county to access brilliant shows and entertainment with superb events right on your doorstep.”
The Vision and Design Approach
Image Above: An artists' impression of the redeveloped Octagon Theatre from Petters Way car park.
Working with our Architects, Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios, and the design team, our vision for The Octagon is a flagship cultural venue that is a welcoming, accessible and vibrant building throughout the day and evening. Offering multiple opportunities the venue will be a place to enjoy superb live performances, a choice of film screenings, classes and participatory workshops and a great place to meet friends and family for good food and a refreshing drink. Our vision for The Octagon is to connect the town centre with Yeovil Country Park and therefore you’ll find lots of natural wood throughout the building and a design that celebrates the entrance to the country park.
With entrances to the building from Petters Car Park and Penn Hill Park (that leads to Goldenstones Car Park and Yeovil Country Park) the building offers a ‘living street’ and route through that we hope will invite guests to stop and enjoy the facilities. The building will be more environmentally friendly and well seek opportunities to support the ecology of the Country Park and our connection to nature.
Improving the theatre
Image Above: An artists impression of The Octagon Theatre from the current car park area.
The proposed Octagon Theatre will include:
Over the last ten years, the audiences at The Octagon Theatre has dramatically increased and the footfall has taken its toll on the 50-year-old building. Much of the theatre isn’t accessible which in this day-and-age isn’t acceptable. The front of house area has begun to look tired, dated and often can feel cramped. The popular and profitable café bar is hampered by being wrapped around the auditorium with diners’ meals interrupted by the arrival of audience members. The kitchen is small and inadequate for the size of the restaurant and the front of house areas lack air conditioning. The popular Octagon Academy classes take place in a small studio obstructed by a supporting pillar in the middle of the room, with no windows or air cooling and a lack of ceiling height for dance classes. It’s not now cost-effective to just keep patching the theatre up and the investment in the new build will ensure the venue is compliant, safe and able maintain the audience levels. Significant improvements to accessibility, carbon consumption and the performance space are required.
Benefits of the redevelopment
Image above: An artists impression of outside the redeveloped Octagon Theatre at night.
Ultimately, the redevelopment of The Octagon Theatre will see the theatre transformed into a flagship venue for the arts and entertainment in Somerset. The plans have evolved to create a flagship centre for the creative arts that will provide amazing opportunities for our residents and bring world class arts to Somerset. The plans see The Octagon Theatre transformed into a centre of excellence.
The work will see a fly tower and circle added that will take the seating from 622 to 900 - this will mean big advances in productions that could attend the venue including touring plays and musicals. Increasing the seating capacity takes the theatre to the next level. Larger touring companies need to cover their costs, so increasing our seating increases the scope of companies to come to the theatre.
A larger theatre also will mean more jobs created so investing in our theatre is also investing in the local economy.
Funding the project
Image above: An artists impression of the auditorium.
The project could now potentially cost £29.01m which is an increase of £6m from the previously agreed budget.
Whist the project is being paid for by SSDC, £10m of the cost is being funded through a grant via the Department of Culture, Media and Sport – leaving £19.01m of additional funding to be sought. This funding will be generated through loaning the money from the council itself. This means income made from the venue will be paid back, at no additional cost to the taxpayer. Other funding streams will be through fundraising events, whilst other options explored from trusts and foundations that will bring national funding to support the project.
Image above: An artists impression of the auditorium from the stage.
The design process has been led by experienced theatre architects, Fielden, Clegg, Bradley associates and we are excited to share Stage 2 RIBA designs with the public in the coming weeks. The next stage of the process will see finer details refined and then a planning application submitted to the local Planning Authority for consideration. This is expected to be submitted in summer / autumn 2022.
The Octagon Theatre will close to the public after the last performance of Dick Whittington on 1 January 2023 – the very last show that will perform in the current Octagon Theatre. We will then aim to reopen to the public in time for the December 2024 pantomime.
The Octagon Theatre: A local venue
The Octagon Theatre will always be a local theatre. The new redeveloped theatre will be no exception to this and in fact give more local talent an opportunity to develop with the enhanced dance studio and community studio space.
The venue is a very well loved and used space but it could be so much more to our communities and visitors. Whilst the project will make the theatre a beacon for arts and entertainment in South Somerset, it will have a significant impact on the local economy and will be sure to be the home of current and emerging new talent in the area.
As we mentioned, fundraising will form a key part of helping to fund the development. Over the coming months, we will also be starting more fundraising activities which will help fund the redevelopment. From ‘A Night at the Theatre’ sleeping at the venue; to skydives, cycle rides and charity raffles – we aim to raise as much funds as we can.
You can get involved now with our ‘Name A Seat’ campaign whereby from £150, you can have a personalised plaque on a seat within our new auditorium. Contributing now means that you will be placed on our priority list and contacted to choose a seat for your plaque once the seating plan has been designed.
In the near future, we will be creating opportunities for our community to also help us fundraise, so look out for more details on how you can get involved via our website, octagon-theatre.co.uk.