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Chelmsford Theatres to close for upgrade

Old studio seating

Chelmsford Theatres are about to have a much-needed makeover. The refurbishment works, which have already started, will get going in earnest when the building closes to audiences from Sunday 19 June.

Stylish revamp for the tired venue

Over the summer the dated front-of-house will be given a stylish revamp, with the foyers, box office, bar areas and toilets all in line for a contemporary overhaul. The intention is to completely transform the customer experience at the venue, which hasn’t been upgraded for many years.

Bar and café areas transformed

The bar and café areas will be a particular focus for the works to make the theatres feel more like a cultural living room for the city. The worn out ground floor theatre bar will be remodelled, with better access from the foyer and an adaptable area for music, comedy and children’s activities. 

A modern café and bar area will also be created at the front of the building, serving customers from late morning through to the evening, with tables outside for al fresco drinks in the summer months.

Modern toilets and box office

The toilets throughout the building will also get a long-overdue update. The tired rest rooms will be given a fresh look and feel in keeping with the expectations of modern theatregoers and there’ll be some more cubicles upstairs too.

The chunky wood-panelled box office which currently takes up part of the main foyer, will be removed and this area pushed back to make way for more space for visitors to circulate. The theatre will also get a whole new ticketing system which will allow audiences to download tickets straight to their phone.

Cllr Marie Goldman, the Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council, says in future a theatre experience will be much more than watching a performance.

“A trip to the theatre should feel magical from start to finish, whether you’re seeing a big show or simply buying a coffee, and for too long the only magic at Chelmsford Theatres has been what happens on stage. We want visitors to feel the magic from the very moment they step through the front door, and this refurbishment will finally give customers the red carpet treatment they deserve from their city’s theatre.”

Cllr Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader, Chelmsford City Council
Old theatre box office

Works will run through the summer

The works, which are being carried out by the ARC Group, will run throughout the next few months, including the period when the theatre would traditionally be closed for its August break.

Although the two auditoriums aren’t part of the refurb, other improvement works such as a planned upgrade of the carpets in the Civic, have been brought forward to minimise future disruption to audiences.

Interim theatre director Lee Henderson says he hopes the changes to the building will allow its relationship with the city to flourish.

“The metamorphosis that Chelmsford Theatres are going through gives us the potential to engage so many more people than before. Enjoying performing arts doesn’t just have to mean evening tickets to a play. It could be having a coffee and listening to live music in our café, taking part in a creative workshop, or improv in the bar.

We’ll be using the refurbishment as a catalyst for wider change, looking at how we can break down some of the barriers around people engaging in culture. We’ve also appointed a new events and outreach manager who will be taking the theatre out into the community and linking up with projects and partners all over the city.”

Lee Henderson, Interim Theatre Director
Old upstairs bar before the refurbishment
The tired venue will become a cultural living room for the city

Box office will stay open by phone and online

There are exciting shows coming to Chelmsford Theatres later this year, from trailblazing drag extravaganza Queenz to Jack and the Beanstalk, this year’s Christmas panto.

While the box office is out of action, the theatres’ ticket and information service will continue by phone on 01245 606505, with lines open Monday to Friday between 10am and 2pm. The only exception is Monday 20 June when the service won’t be running to allow the team to set up their equipment in a temporary office.

Tickets are also available to purchase online for future shows at https://www.chelmsford.gov.uk/theatres/ and the box office team can be contacted by email at boxoffice@chelmsford.gov.uk.

Sign up for updates about the new-look theatres

If you’d like to receive regular updates about Chelmsford Theatres’ makeover and news about the reopening, sign up to the theatre mailing list.

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Julie Weight
Julie Weight

Julie writes stories and creates videos for Chelmsford City Council. Contact her at julie.weight@chelmsford.gov.uk or on 01245 606984.