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Closed Stratford arts centre revived as family-led venue

Stratford Play House, formerly Stratford Artshouse Stratford Play House, formerly Stratford Artshouse
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An arts centre in Stratford-upon-Avon is being given a new lease of life as a family-focused venue, just months after its funding was removed, forcing it to close.

The Stratford ArtsHouse had been operating since 2014, staging comedy, music and an annual pantomime as well as community performance.

However, it closed earlier this year after the Stratford Town Trust, which owns the lease and funded the operation, removed its financial support, claiming the venue was no longer financially sustainable.

Now the 455-seat venue is being renamed the Stratford Play House and will be run by touring theatre company Proon Productions, with an emphasis on staging “quality, alternative” theatre and performing arts that it hopes will widen the building’s audience.

The company was selected to run the space based on a bid submitted to the Stratford Town Trust, which is also providing £150,000 a year in funding, part of which must support 100 days of community events.

Proon Productions’ Ellis Creez, who will act as co-artistic director with Rebecca Hallworth, said they may explore further funding options once the building opens officially in October.

Creez said Proon would be staging one family show of its own in each season, as well as other theatre, comedy and music, an annual pantomime and a summer school.

The company also hopes to open up the building’s atrium and courtyard by installing smaller stages, having a children’s play area and cafe, and hosting community events such as fetes.

While the venue will open full-time in October, Proon intends to make it available for community hire immediately, and will be hosting ‘curtain raiser’ events before its official opening to introduce the town to the theatre’s vision.

Justin Williams, chief executive of the Stratford Town Trust, told The Stage: “We’re very excited to have Proon as the new operator, and we are certainly looking forward to the unity they will bring and wish them every success. It’s fantastic for Stratford.”

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