One of the most exciting and unique strands of the Pass It On project are our Playboxes. These are a multi-usage teaching resource that we have been developing with local partner schools, using the Festival Theatre’s archive to support key-curricular learning in class. Our three boxes, ‘Performance’, ‘Construction’ and ‘People’ can be used to cover a whole range of subject areas, from English to Drama and even Maths and Science. We’ve focused on Key Stage 2 at primary school level, but as the Playboxes have been used in their ‘proto-type’ phase, some teachers have liked them so much they’ve used them with a whole range of different ages and abilities.
In July 2014, we sent our Performance Box out to all of our schools. Last term, our ‘Construction’ Box, all about the founding and building of the Festival Theatre, went out to our new partner school, The March. The class’ curricular module was ‘Mighty Metals’; we took this as a great opportunity to show off all the building materials that were used both in 1962 and as part of the RENEW project. The architecture of the Grade II* listed Theatre is extremely important to share, so as part of the work that the class was doing with the artefacts we gave them, they also came along to see them in practice at the Theatre.
We’ve been showing it off for months now; public and private tours for members of the public to experience and explore backstage areas, and the Open Day where we threw open every single door for visitors to find out more about what happens behind the scenes. But this week we have been able to properly enjoy our renewed and refreshed Theatre from a rather special vantage point.
As I write this, I can turn to the right and ahead, and see green parkland space. The Director’s Office is a mere few metres away, and to the left is our brand new meeting room. Yes, we have finally packed up out of our temporary office in the Stephen Pimlott building and officially moved into the Festival Theatre!
The office is housed in the new extension added to the back of the Theatre. A huge lightwell that spills outside light down into this office space also connects the upstairs dressing room area with admin. Everything is open plan and we are all on an equal footing. This is a design feature that you will find in all areas of the Theatre, from the entrance foyer, a space with no ‘VIP’ areas which every single ticket holder can enjoy, to the 12 dressing rooms in the new extension, that all provide the same facilities for each performer – no matter what the name. This sense of democratic space not only enhances the feeling of community within the building (between both cast, crew and admin) but is also an important and original feature of Powell and Moya’s 1962 vision.
As Chichester Festival Theatre has been tucked away behind hoardings undergoing its intense period of restoration and improvement, we at Pass It On have been charged with providing the public with as much access to, and information about, what’s going on back there as possible. To this end, over the course of this summer we ran a short series of lunch time tours around the hoardings with RENEW Project Architect, Lucy Picardo.
On three sunny afternoons between July and September, 15 lucky people spent 45 minutes with Lucy talking them through the works taking place, catching glimpses of various aspects of the project through the windows in the hoardings before ending up on first floor level platform overlooking the site.