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Lee Henderson begins Interim Theatre Director role at Chelmsford City Theatres

Chelmsford City Theatres have appointed a new senior manager to oversee their relaunch later this year. Lee Henderson, an experienced leader in the cultural, theatre, and entertainment industry, joins the venue this month as Interim Theatre Director.

Lee Henderson

Chelmsford City Council is planning a renovation of the foyer, box office and bar areas of Chelmsford Theatres, which house both the Civic Theatre and Cramphorn Studio. The improvements will include a remodelling of the ground floor theatre bar to become a café and bar serving customers all day, and the creation of a second bar area at the front of the Cramphorn with seating on the pavement outside.

The works are designed to provide a much-improved customer experience for theatregoers, with more space for small events and socialising. Alongside the refurbishment Lee will build a strategic plan for the theatres, steering programming for this new era.

Crucial experience in steering theatres through changes

Lee Henderson has previously been the theatre director of Oxford’s New Theatre, the chief executive of the Marina Theatre Trust in Suffolk, and the general manager of the Theatre Royal Stratford East. These roles have seen him take organisations through significant change, developing partnerships and improving growth both socially and financially. Chelmsford City Council’s Deputy Leader, Cllr Marie Goldman, says Lee’s expertise will be crucial in guiding the theatres into this new phase.

“This is an exciting appointment for the theatres showing how serious the council is in its ambition to transform this site into the cultural heartbeat of the city. It will be incredibly valuable to have a theatre director of Lee’s calibre to lead the theatres through an important physical transformation, and Lee’s track record of engaging the arts sector and communities will also ensure that we create a cultural space that everyone in the city can be proud of.”

Cllr Marie Goldman, Deputy Leader of Chelmsford City Council

Chelmsford Theatres to become all-day venue

The refurbishment, which is timed to coincide with the Civic’s 60th birthday, is designed to turn the venue into a cultural living room for Chelmsford. At the moment, the theatres are open during the day simply to allow access to the box office, but the building is largely unused unless shows are on. When the renovation works are completed, the theatres will open all day for people to socialise in the cafés, take workshops and classes, as well as see performances. Lee Henderson says the changes will put the theatres back at the centre of the community.

“The Civic and Cramphorn have served Chelmsford well over the last few decades but a city needs so much more from its cultural venues than a place that only really comes to life in the evening. Although the pandemic has presented huge challenges for the industry, it has also empowered us to think differently about our theatres’ role as a space that brings people together.

The changes I’ll be leading, from work to create a premium front of house experience, to establishing new programming relationships, will give people so many more reasons to visit us throughout the day and into the night. I’ll be working closely with local partners in the months to come to create an inspiring venue that’s commercially successful and reflects the values and needs of the city.”

Lee Henderson, Interim Theatre Director, Chelmsford City Theatres

Hear the latest on Chelmsford Theatres’ transformation

There’ll be plenty of updates on the theatres’ plans to become an all-day venue here in City Life as the refurbishment gets underway in the months to come.

In the meantime, you can also stay up to date with the latest news about shows at the Civic and Cramphorn by signing up to the theatres’ 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.