Bristol Old Vic given go-ahead for £12m refurbishment

Bristol Old Vic, how it look alongside an artists' impression The proposed revamp (pictured right) will turn the foyer into an open cafe area and public space

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Plans to modernise Bristol's Old Vic theatre, which include exposing a wall to the public for the first time since the 1760s, have been approved.

Some £12m will be spent refurbishing the foyer of the 250-year-old theatre, its studio theatre, 18th Century Coopers' Hall and bar cafe areas.

Last year the playhouse's main auditorium was completely revamped.

Architect Steve Tompkins said Bristol City Council's decision was unanimous and he was "delighted and relieved".

"It is an important development for Bristol, both architecturally and culturally, and we've got to make sure it's right," he said.

Bristol Old Vic The theatre will need to raise £7m to add to the £5m of funding already earmarked from the Arts Council

The theatre's artistic director, Tom Morris, said he saw the two-stage redevelopment plans as a partnership between the theatre and the people of Bristol.

The Bristol Old Vic's past

  • The theatre was built in 1766
  • It was sold in 1942 and narrowly escaped being turned into a banana ripening warehouse
  • It is the only surviving example of the 18th Century horseshoe-shaped theatre
  • The average lifespan of a theatre in the 18th and 19th Centuries was 17 years
  • The building was not called The Old Vic until after 1946
  • Previous names in its history including Bristol Theatre Royal, King St Theatre and The Old Gaffe.

He said: "To go through that democratic process, and to have the quite radical plans interrogated by a committee of councillors, and to get that unambiguous endorsement is really exciting.

"It means the city council understands how important it is, for everyone in Bristol, that this redevelopment will be able to open out the theatre to the street.

"Everyone will be able to come into this wonderful new foyer and see the theatre ahead of them as they did in 1766 when they went through a house into a courtyard."

The plans show the open foyer being fully accessible to wheelchairs as well as having more toilet facilities.

The studio theatre will also be made fully accessible and Coopers' Hall will be returned to its original purpose as a function hall for the city.

So far £5m of funding has already been earmarked for the project from the Arts Council, but the theatre will need to raise the rest.

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