‘First wholly crowd-funded’ theatre to open in Croydon

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A new fringe studio theatre in south London, which is claimed to be the first financed entirely from crowd-funding, is to open this spring.

Matthews Yard in Croydon has raised nearly £8,000 in just over a month through online pledge system Kickstarter to put towards a new performance space.

Housed in a disused basement that was previously part of a supermarket, Matthews Yard opened last April to provide workspace for local entrepreneurs who pay a membership fee for access to the room.

The venue is planning to build a 70-seat studio theatre as part of the basement area that will be used by amateur theatre groups and for live music, comedy gigs and independent cinema, with the hope of programming professional shows in the future as well.

Matthews Yard founder Saif Bonar said community performance groups would be able to use the rehearsal space for free, while professional companies would be charged rental fees.

Bonar said that with Croydon’s Warehouse Theatre recently going into administration, plus the closure of the local Clocktower complex, which had a performance space and cinema within it, he had been spurred on to create a theatre for the community.

“We’ve lost all the independent arts and theatre spaces in the centre of Croydon. You don’t have anywhere that community theatre and youth groups can come together, so we thought, ‘Let’s put that back into the area’,” he said.

Crowd-funding was the quickest way to acquire the money needed to build the theatre, Bonar said.

“I couldn’t find a business case to present to banks for investing in theatre equipment such as lighting, which we would need for a viable performance space, but I knew we had a lot of support from local people, which is why we decided to use crowd-funding,” he added.

“We’ve capitalised on the speed of the internet rather than running, for example, a buy a brick-style campaign, which would have taken six or 12 months to achieve.”