Council plans to demolish Kenneth More Theatre and build 900-seat venue
Plans have been announced to demolish a 358-seat theatre in Ilford and replace it with a 900-seat performing arts venue.
The venue would replace the Kenneth More Theatre, which is owned by Redbridge Council and being operated by Redbridge Theatre Company.
However Redbridge Theatre Company announced earlier this year that it would be cancelling all shows at the venue from July due to financial issues.
Now Redbridge Council has revealed plans to build a leisure complex, library and theatre.
The council said: “The Kenneth More theatre has served Ilford well for 50 years but, following the trustee’s recent announcement that it is to close, the council is exploring its redevelopment as the first phase of an ambitious plan to deliver a broader programme of events and befitting our creative and vibrant community.”
The construction of the theatre, library and leisure complex will follow a multimillion-pound regeneration project, called the Spark, for Ilford’s town centre, which will also include a covered food market, art studios and space for start-up businesses.
Redbridge Council leader Jas Athwal said: “Developing the town centre with a new arts hub, a 900-seat theatre, a swimming pool and a state of the art library will enable Ilford to take its rightful place as the heart of a modern east London.
“The council will be using its own land holdings around the town hall to kick start things over the next year and will follow this with the redevelopment of the Kenneth More Theatre [which will have] up to four times the footprint of the existing theatre.”
Athwal added: “For too long Ilford has been neglected and now I am working to deliver the theatre, leisure facilities and bigger and better library all our residents can enjoy.”
Theatres advisor at Theatres Trust, Tom Stickland, said the organisation had not been consulted on this proposal and added he was disappointed that the council’s plans could leave Ilford “without theatre provision for a considerable period”.
“We welcome the co-location of council services as it is a model that has had success in other theatres such as Chester’s Storyhouse, however this was only possible with extensive consultation and a rigorous design process. It is not immediately clear that all of the proposed services would be compatible and we would urge the council to consider the continued use of the theatre until the new proposal is finalised,” he said.
The council aims to complete the theatre in the next five years and is currently drawing up plans for consultation.
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