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a building or outdoor area in which plays and other dramatic performances are given.


Along with Tim Miles, I am attending this year's Theatres Trust annual conference, which has the theme of putting artists and the audience at the heart of theatres.

What's becoming clear from discussion is that theatres are only so much about bricks and mortar. While these present a physical anchor, ultimately at the heart of the theatre is the community which it serves, and there is a need to ensure that buildings respond to this responsibility.

There is more emphasis on ensuring that communities lie at the heart of a theatre throughout the day, not just at performance times. Drawing people over the threshold for other activities that help support the artistic curation.

It also allows for non-traditional opportunities to come forward, repurposing buildings to create activity and generating value. For placemaking, it creates identity and generates footfall.

Expanding beyond the traditional definition of a "Theatre" does, of course, brings its own challenges, and for the planning system this presents a situation of fitting a square peg in to a round hole.

The planning system can be inflexible; it's slow to respond to change, and the policy definition of "community value" may be different to what the community actually wants.

Key to unlocking these projects is to look at the benefits that they bring, not only for the arts, but for the community as a whole. Delivering this message in a clear, concise and robust manner as part of the planning case will help to overcome concern.

The emphasis is becoming less about the performance of a show, but more about the performance of community life.

Perhaps it's time we redefine what a theatre is, and think about more of what it means for the community.



theatre, centrestage19, community, town centre, placemaking, london, insight