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Artistic policy faces overhaul as Bristol Old Vic launches refurb

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Bristol Old Vic is to undergo a “root and branch review” of its artistic policy alongside its planned £7 million refurbishment, it has been revealed.

The venue formally launched its public fund-raising appeal this week as it bids to find the final £2 million to revamp the 240-year-old theatre and bring it in line with health and safety standards and disability access requirements.

Chairman of the appeal Nick Bacon told The Stage that the venue’s impending closure was a “painful situation”, but stressed it was important to “look to the future and move on”.

“From a business point of view, this period of closure and refurbishment creates a fantastic opportunity for a root and branch review [of the artistic policy] with the arts council, our partners in the region and the audiences,” he said.

An initial consultation will take place on June 21 at Circomedia in Bristol, at which interested parties will be able to put forward their opinions as to how the company should progress. Input from funding partners such as Arts Council England and the local council will form part of the review, although Bacon insists that, albeit in an altered form, he is “sure” the venue will continue as a producing theatre.

Refurbishment work on the Grade I listed venue will include raising the stalls floor to improve sightlines, a new ventilation system, replacement seating, disabled access lifts front and back of stage, rewiring of the whole building, improved drainage and toilet facilities and the installation of state of the art technical equipment. Meanwhile, cracked walls in the foyer will be repaired and some structural work will be undertaken in the auditorium.

Bacon explained that if the full amount was not raised, certain parts of the scheme would have to be dropped, but the work would “go ahead regardless”.

A number of famous names from the theatre industry have already offered support, with Patrick Stewart, Neil Pearson and Richard Briers all featuring as part of the BOV’s campaign. But the closure and refurbishment has not been welcomed in all quarters. Equity has followed West Yorkshire Playhouse artistic director Ian Brown in calling for an inquiry into the sudden decision to shut the venue, while Malcolm Sinclair and Alan Rickman have expressed their concerns.

Rickman said: “Would somebody please explain why I am receiving letters as recently as this Monday asking for money to preserve the fabric of a building which appears to have nothing happening in it? I trust Equity will be pressing for answers.”

To donate to the appeal visit www.savebristololdvic.co.uk or call 0845 882279.

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