Whitby Hall, Action Transport Theatre, P Freshfield
The building for Action Transport Theatre is expected to be complete in early 2022. Credit: via Freshfield

Cassidy + Ashton takes over Ellesmere Port theatre project from London studio

Julia Hatmaker

The Cheshire-based practice has been appointed architectural delivery partner of the £2.5m Whitby Hall scheme, which was initially designed by Bennetts Associates.

The project involves both refurbishing the Victorian-era Whitby Hall and building an extension that can be used as a performance space for Action Transport Theatre. The extension will be able to hold 200 people for concerts and 150 for seated events.

Cassidy + Ashton will work alongside contractor Engie to deliver the theatre, with the firm saying it would do its best to ensure Bennetts Associates’ original concepts are honoured. Stage Electrics and Charcoalblue are assisting on the lighting and sound aspects of the theatre.

“It is a complex building considering its size and shape and design approach,” said Ian Riches, a senior chartered architectural technologist with Cassidy + Ashton.

“Our role is to provide a technical interpretation of the architect’s initial design and to work closely alongside the contractors to see it through to completion,” Riches said. “I look forward to seeing performances in action when the new theatre is in operation.”

The new building is a replacement for a mid-1960s extension to Whitby Hall, which was demolished after falling into disrepair.

Riches said that Engie was focused on improving the green credentials of Whitby Hall itself through the refurbishment work, which includes a full mechanical and electrical refit.

“This project delivers cutting edge innovation in the principles of sustainable design and materials, passive technology and modern methods of construction,” Riches said. “The existing extension was not fit for purpose as a theatre and the new design creates an adaptable performance space using sustainable materials and modern methods in insulation and ventilation.”

Funds for the Whitby Hall project come from Cheshire West and Chester Council, Arts Council England and the government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund.

Work on the site has already begun, with the construction of the timber-framed extension underway. The scheme is expected to complete in early 2022.

Nina Hajiyianni, artistic director of Action Transport Theatre voiced her excitement for the construction work.

“We are delighted that our ambitious capital programme is finally underway,” she said. “The new venue will bring a new lease of life to a much-loved historic building and create an incredible new cultural asset for the town. It will also allow us to build on our national reputation as a specialist theatre company for children and young people.”

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what an ugly new extension to Whitby Hall. totally abhorrent

By David H