1989: Minerva Theatre Opens

1989 was a very significant year in the history of Chichester Festival Theatre. Following the success of The Tent, a permanent home was built to house future studio performances: the Minerva Theatre.

The new space would continue the legacy of The Tent by encouraging young writers, actors and directors to create new pieces of work and be a ‘living’ theatre for the future. Sir Laurence Olivier wrote, "I am delighted to hear that the studio theatre will open. It will be of particular benefit to the young actors and directors who are the stars of the future". The grand opening was on 22 April 1989 with a young Sam Mendes as its first Artistic Director. A statue of the Roman goddess Minerva sits outside the entrance, a symbol of CFT since its beginning for the association with the arts and link to Chichester's Roman past. The statue was commissioned from Philip Jackson in 1997 by the Chichester Festival Theatre Society to commemorate the life and work of the Theatre’s founder, Leslie Evershed-Martin.

Actor Donald Sinden captures photograph of construction of the Minerva from the roof of the Festival Theatre