In 2013, Chichester Festival Theatre closed its doors for the first time in its history to implement RENEW: a project to restore and upgrade its Grade II* listed building.
Launched in 2012 for CFT's 50th anniversary, this ambitious £22million refurbishment by architects Haworth Tompkins incorporated essential repairs to the building, a new extension, increased seating capacity, enhanced access and public facilities, greatly improved visitor and backstage areas, and changes to make the building more energy efficient. The project came at a prosperous time for the Theatre under Jonathan Church and Alan Finch because, as they noted, "when better to launch an appeal than [...] when audiences and critics, the local authorities and the national funding bodies, are all - extraordinarily - in agreement as to the value, the purpose, the joy of the fact that world-class theatre is being produced in the heart of this modest market town of West Sussex".
A temporary tented structure that held a 1,400 seat auditorium - the Theatre on the Park - was erected to keep the crowds coming while the Festival Theatre was closed for 18 months.
RENEW Project Timelapse 2013
RENEW Changes event 2014
Find out how the building has changed for those working in and visiting the Theatre since 2014.
Theatre in the Park
Erected while the RENEW project was underway, the Theatre in the Park was designed by architect Matthew Churchill after the CFT team saw the space he created for the Peter Pan Experience in Kew Gardens in 2011. The venue was much more luxurious than the Theatre on the Fly the year before, with full facilities including two bars, a cloakroom, bathroom facilities, air conditioning and heating. The venue had the same thrust stage, recognisable to CFT audiences, and noticeably the poles were located on the outside of the Theatre to avoid obstructing sightlines inside the 1400 seater auditorium.
The venue staged Barnum in July and August, a musical based on America’s greatest showman, and Tim Firth's shipwreck comedy Neville’s Island in September, starring Rufus Hound.