Exeter – the Cultural Centre of Devon.
Exeter needs a large, exciting, city centre venue to attract major touring shows, present shows of its own, encourage and support other venues and theatre groups and become the flagship theatre of a bustling, expanding regional capital.
But we have to get it right. A new theatre has to have something for everybody; something that makes people want to come and keep on coming. The programming is crucial and we are a long way from being able to predict what could be on offer. We are at the beginning of a long period of consultation.
But what brought this group together was an overwhelming desire for a new theatre in the centre of Exeter and the outcomes of early discussions are as follows:
There is a demand for large scale theatre in this reasonably affluent region. But with the nearest theatres that can present those shows being in Plymouth, Torquay and Bristol, the people of Exeter and in the county North and East of the city are faced with long, long journeys if they want a night out at a big show.
Our vision is for a city centre theatre that:
- probably has around 1000 seats
- can present larger touring shows than are currently on offer in Exeter’s existing venues
- may also have a smaller performance space
- is easily accessible from city car parks and public transport links
- may occasionally produce or co-produce shows of its own
- can offer hospitality suites and attractive sponsorship deals to local businesses
- can become a ‘cultural hub’ for theatre and performing arts in the region offering training and access for schools, colleges and other groups of people
The new Princesshay shopping centre has won several awards and has transformed the appearance of the top of the High Street. The recent work on John Lewis has greatly improved the look of the building that dominates the city. But does the city have a landmark building? A building that turns heads, wins architectural awards, makes people want to go inside?
A new theatre can do this. There are some stunning new theatres around the UK – take a look at the Hampstead Theatre in London, The New Marlowe in Canterbury, Theatre Severn in Shrewsbury, The Waterside in Aylesbury or even The Sage at Gateshead.
Exeter now has the opportunity to create a magnificent, head turning building that could re-vitalise a part of the city centre; a building that makes a statement about the cultural offer in the city and that restores some balance to the recent growth and dominance of retail outlets.