Bedford School is set to unveil a brand new theatre complex in Spring 2015 following the conversion of St Luke’s Church.
The new theatre will feature a 300-seat galleried courtyard theatre, a large, double height rehearsal and teaching studio, as well as professional sound, lighting and studio systems.
Planning permission and listed building consent was granted for the conversion of St Luke’s Church, a Grade II listed 19thC Moravian Chapel, into a new performing arts centre for Bedford School early in 2013 by Bedford Borough Council.
The project involves the renovation and conversion of the listed chapel into a 300 seat galleried courtyard theatre and restoration of the listed Minister’s House to provide front of house facilities, offices and a reinstated congregation hall, as a rehearsal and teaching studio. A new single storey rear extension will be added to provide foyer and back stage facilities and the venue will also boast views onto a landscaped garden.
In order to undertake this project careful negotiations with the local authority and local residents have been necessary to develop a scheme which is sympathetic to the listed building and the Conservation Area in which it stands. The external form of the extension is designed to sit comfortably alongside the chancel, whilst employing modern architectural language and detailing.
The theatre comprises a flat-floored flexible studio space and has been created by inserting a new steel structure within the volume of the existing church, which is intended to till highlight the existing interior features.
The existing balcony has been retained but extended forward and re-tiered, to provide theatre-goers with the best possible views of the stage area. Two levels of new galleries will be inserted at the sides of the stage together with high level suspensions for scenery and stage lighting.
The lower gallery is to be used for the audience, while the upper gallery will provide technical facilities and a control room. The new theatre in St Luke’s provides Bedford School with an opportunity to further engage with the local community by providing a venue that can be used in a number of ways including school productions, for hire by local amateur groups, for medium scale professional touring productions and for local community groups to hold lectures or meetings.
The theatre will replace the current building used as a theatre, and is set to be built by 2015. It will cater for up to 300 people and will be used for professional theatre productions, school shows and amateur dramatic groups.
Bedford School is set in a 50 acre estate and offers a unique setting for weddings, private dining, conferences, meetings, photo shoots and sporting events.