The King’s Head Theatre is on the move – the well-worn, much-loved 110-seat auditorium can no longer contain the artistic ambition of the Theatre. To realise a creatively and financially sustainable future, the company is set to move to a brand new theatre space within Islington Square, immediately neighbouring its current location.
Sager Group in association with Cain International, along with the King’s Head Theatre and Young’s Pubs, have, following extensive discussion and collaboration, submitted a planning application to Islington Council. The aspiration is that the King’s Head Theatre will move into its new purpose-built space by Autumn 2018. Here, it will be able to continue to grow and thrive within the community.
The theatre space within Islington Square has been designed by celebrated architect Graham Currie of ISA, and will be equipped to meet the demands of a thriving theatre in the 21st century. The submitted proposals would see the creation of a 250-seat auditorium and an 85-seat studio, along with bar, foyer and outstanding facilities for actors and audiences alike.
While the brand new theatre is built, the King’s Head Theatre will be as busy as ever in a temporary home, just 10 doors up the road in the current John Salt Bar at 131 Upper Street. This temporary space has been designed to match the capacity and specifications of the current King’s Head Theatre and will bridge the gap before the move to the new permanent theatre and allow the King’s Head Theatre to continue the diverse and exciting season as normal.
Artistic Director, King’s Head Theatre, Adam Spreadbury-Maher said:
“I’m thrilled to be able to share this wonderful news: it’s an incredibly exciting time for us, and for artists and audiences at the King’s Head Theatre. Just feet away from the current auditorium, the planned new space will celebrate our illustrious heritage, while securing our future for decades to come. I’m excited that James Seabright has joined the King’s Head Theatre as our Chair of Trustees working alongside myself and Executive Director Fiona English to bring a more sustainable future to our home of emerging talent during this exciting period of growth. We can’t wait until people see what we have in store for our brand-new home.”
The new King’s Head Theatre box office will be at ground level; accessed through the Islington Square arcade via the Grade II listed former Post Office. This is immediately neighbouring the current location, with access to the theatre space at basement level.
The new venue brings the opportunity for the King’s Head Theatre to thrive for years to come and continue its unapologetically eclectic approach to programming; new writing, first revivals, musicals, opera and cabaret. With 65 per cent of funds for the build and fit out already raised, the King’s Head Theatre team is now actively seeking donations to help secure the remaining £2 million needed to see the project through.
The MP for Islington South and Finsbury, Emily Thornberry, said: “I am always thrilled when I get the chance to go to a King’s Head Theatre production – the combination of big sounds and small spaces is really wonderful. It is great news that they are only moving a few yards and it sounds as though the new performance spaces will open up great new opportunities, whilst maintaining an intimate feel. I look forward to my first visit to the new King’s Head Theatre – and I wish the team every success.”
Giris Rabinovitch, CEO of Sager Group commented: “We first discussed working in association with the King’s Head Theatre way back in 2003 when we met with the original founder and impresario Dan Crawford. Ever since, we have continued those discussions with Stephanie Crawford who kept the Theatre going during difficult times following Dan’s passing and more recently with Young’s and the King’s Head Theatre, led by Adam Spreadbury-Maher. We are, therefore, delighted to be able to honour Dan’s memory by announcing this news and to be supporting the King’s Head Theatre and the arts. Islington Square is a unique project, and the proposals submitted add a new dynamic to the community. Patrons, users and the theatre community welcome the creation of new, modern space and we look forward to pulling back the curtain and revealing this theatre.”
Patrick Dardis, Chief Executive of Young’s, Freeholder and Operator of the King’s Head pub said: “We are very proud to have been home to the King’s Head Theatre for so long and we wish them all the best in this exciting next stage of their evolution, which we are pleased to help facilitate. We are delighted that our customers will still have easy access to the revamped theatre and that we will now be able to create a dining area in which theatre-goers can enjoy our award-winning food, alongside their drinks.”
The iconic Upper Street venue helped launch the careers of stars aplenty, among them Joanna Lumley, who said: “It’s thrilling that the King’s Head Theatre now has a chance to spread its colossal wings and fly into the front line of innovative work in the theatrical capital of the world. It has always punched far above its weight; with these dazzling new – planned – facilities it can even offer comfort (hitherto pretty much undreamed of) and reliability (once rain fell so steadily on the audiences’ heads that they made umbrellas of their programmes). It is a bright star with a brighter future, and no place deserves it more.”
Olivier Award-winning actor and King’s Head regular Mark Gatiss commented: “I’m delighted that the King’s Head Theatre is planning to move into such an exciting new venue and has an equally exciting future. In uncertain times, it’s great to see one of the stalwarts of London’s fringe going onwards and upwards… and a bit to the left.”
Chair at the King’s Head Theatre, James Seabright added:”Having only recently joined the trustees as Chair, I am delighted to be working alongside the King’s Head Theatre team to see through this incredible opportunity to move into a purpose-built new home on Upper Street. Its new home will be brilliantly placed to serve both the venue’s ever-growing audience, and also the artists who create and stage the varied programme of unique work curated by artistic director Adam Spreadbury-Maher. This final fundraising push will ensure the theatre can deliver on its potential from day one.”
About the King’s Head
The King’s Head Theatre was established in 1970. Last year 87,031 audience members saw a King’s Head show: 43,857 at our 110 seater home on Upper Street and 43,174 on tour. At our home in Islington we had 861 performances last year of 84 different shows.
For 47 years the theatre was housed in the back room of the King’s Head pub on Upper Street in an old boxing ring and pool hall. Founded by Dan Crawford in 1970, it became known throughout his 35-year tenure as a breeding ground for new talent and great work. In 2010 Olivier Award-winning Opera UpClose Productions became the theatre’s resident company for 4 years, and Adam Spreadbury-Maher became Artistic Director.
The King’s Head Theatre has been a stepping stone in the careers of many of the UK’s most influential contemporary artists. Renowned actors like Maureen Lipman, Hugh Grant, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French and Richard E Grant all performed here, Sir Tom Stoppard, Steven Berkoff and Alan Rickman all began their careers at the King’s Head Theatre.