Chichester Festival Theatre’s RENEW project to restore and upgrade its Grade 2* listed building was launched in 2012 during the Theatre’s 50th anniversary year. The project was undertaken recognising the original building was operating on a scale way beyond what was envisaged when it originally opened in 1962. The redevelopment has 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. Chichester Festival Theatre can now proudly match its world-class artistic reputation with world-class spaces.

RENEW Timeline

July 1962: The Festival Theatre opens with a 9-week Festival of three plays presenting 79 performances to an audience of 75,000.

2010: Haworth Tompkins Architects begin a study to evaluate the historical, architectural and cultural significance of the Festival Theatre.

Summer 2011: Following a wide consultation programme during 2011 with audience members, local interest groups, staff and visiting artists - as well as Arts Council England, Chichester District Council, West Sussex County Council, English Heritage, Twentieth Century Society and the Theatres Trust - Chichester Festival Theatre and Haworth Tompkins Architects worked up an imaginative and cost-effective proposal for RENEW.

December 2011: Planning permission and listed building consent granted by Chichester District Council.

July 2012: The RENEW project receives £12 million from Arts Council England. This immediately unlocks an additional £8 million in pledged local support from businesses, trusts and individuals, and, most notably, from West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council who pledge £1.5 million and £500,000 respectively.

The remaining funds were raised by the RENEW Campaign Committee and its Ambassadors. Over 12,000 people supported our appeal. The total cost of the project was £22 million.

October 2012: Demolition of the Festival Theatre begins.

December 2012: Chichester Festival Theatre was awarded a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

July 2013: While the redevelopment continues, CFT unveils its temporary state-of-the-art auditorium, Theatre in the Park, with a major new production of the musical Barnum, presented in association with Cameron Mackintosh.

September 2013: The ‘topping out’ ceremony takes place in the Festival Theatre. This traditional building event marks the moment when a redevelopment reaches the highest point of a build, or the laying of the final brick.

March 2014: Festival 2014 is announced, including the reopening of the Festival Theatre in July.

July 2014: The first production is staged in the Festival Theatre, a major new production of Amadeus featuring Rupert Everett as Salieri and Joshua McGuire as Mozart.

RENEW Project Key Improvements

Celebration of the original hexagon

  • Restoring the original Grade 2* listed concrete structure
  • Removing all post-1963 additions and building a new extension complementing the original design. The use of Cor-Ten cladding which will weather over the years, will ensure the extension visually recedes next to the original theatre

Foyer and public areas

  • Extended and de-cluttered foyer areas with more space and light, linking to the surrounding parkland
  • Two new cafés and bars housed in new wings opening onto terraced areas
  • More toilets with baby changing facilities in all
  • Fully accessible toilets and two new fast and larger lifts provide access to all areas
  • Art installations including hand painted ceilings and walls by Antoni Malinowski to complement the geometries of the existing structure
  • Improved external spaces with more pedestrian areas creating a piazza feel with café tables and chairs, and extra picnic spaces in the park


  • Increased seating capacity to 1,300 with the restoration of 100 balcony seats
  • Refurbished seating
  • An increase in the auditorium rake, improving sightlines and intimacy bringing those in the upper tiers closer to the stage
  • Extra wheelchair spaces on two levels, a new induction loop system and grab rails to benefit patrons with impaired mobility
  • A new displacement air-conditioning system

Backstage facilities

  • The new extension houses all back of house facilities enabling the Festival Theatre staff and companies to work together in one building close to the stage and auditorium
  • A new green room with private garden for the company (the original wooden stage donated by Stratford Ontario has been used to lay the green room floor)
  • A larger scene dock with level access to the stage supported by a new scenic lift
  • Fully accessible in all areas
  • New dressing rooms with en-suite facilities. All dressing rooms are built around the stage on one level creating a sense of ‘stage community’ together with wigs, wardrobe and stage management teams
  • Production workshops are housed in a new basement accessible by the scenic lift


  • Installation of a new open and closed loop ground source heat pump systems to heat or cool the building as needed
  • Installation of high performance glazing ensures heat loss/solar gain is minimized
  • The thermal insulation of both the new and original buildings have been greatly enhanced helping reduce building energy demands
  • Efficient sanitary ware ensures that water consumption is reduced
  • A new building management system ensures energy consumption is managed effectively and efficiently across the building, with energy saving LEDs, efficient stage lighting and PIRs (Passive infra-red Sensors) which detect movement and switch on lighting
  • New cycle racks
  • A recycling policy throughout the building with the provision of recycling bins

RENEW Supporters

The RENEW project received £12 million from Arts Council England, £8 million of local support from businesses, trusts and individuals, £1.5 million from West Sussex County Council and £500,000 from Chichester District Council.

The remaining funds were raised by the RENEW Campaign Committee and its Ambassadors. Over 12,000 people supported the appeal. Details of all our Ambassadors and supporters can be viewed here.

Support was also received from the Heritage Lottery Fund, whose grant of £1.2million supported the Theatre’s restoration and funded Pass It On, a 3-year community participation programme charting the history of Chichester Festival Theatre and creating an archive that celebrates the past 50 years. This can be viewed at

Further information

A blog written during the project by Victor Manley, Campaign Coordinator can be found here.

Videos showing different aspects of the project from demolition, to tours and fundraising activity can be found here.