Today the Institute is the professional body for the accreditation of Theatre Consultants, based on their experience and proven ability. It undertakes continuing professional development for its membership and training to Diploma level for those entering or developing their skills in the field. Monthly seminars, or visits to completed projects for evaluation and comment by members, are undertaken and these are focal points for the exchange of information and technology between members.
The Institute maintains an up-to-date role of members and their contact details. The Chairman is also empowered to provide an arbitration service for disputes involving the work of a Theatre Consultant (though this facility has never been used). The Institute has a Code of Practice that members are required to follow to ensure professional standards and commercial impartiality of advice and impartiality in dealings between client and contractors.
The Institute now embodies a very considerable body of experience and professional expertise in the creation and adaptation of venues for the performing arts. Members work in every continent and most countries of the world experiencing different performance cultures and practices. We have members with practices in the Netherlands, Norway, Finland and Australia, and most of the larger practices have offices in several countries.
The Institute began as the Society of Theatre Consultants in London in 1964, in response to very apparent need for specialist advice to architects and building design teams as a result of the early period of post war theatre building. Theatres were being opened with inadequate stage lighting provision, crude machinery and poor audience facilities. With little capital available for performing arts venues it was apparent that precious money was, too often, being spent in inadequate buildings.
In April 1964 a meeting was called at the offices of the Arts Council of Great Britain of theatre producers, lighting designers, historians and architects with recent experience in theatre building design and the Head of Theatres Section, of the Greater London Council (as the most experienced regulator of theatre buildings) to see what might be done to improve the practicality of the wave of theatre buildings then being planned in the UK. The result was the formation of the Society of Theatre Consultants. Its members had a range of experience in the theatre and some appreciation of the needs of architects and design teams in understanding the ability of a venue to serve the performing arts. The early specialist consultants brought careers in production management and stage lighting and sound (often experience in all these) and began to work with the architects (often first members of the Society) to improve the theatre designs coming forward.
Gradually an expertise was created and expanded to include more than the technical provision, recognising the more subtle aspects of auditorium and stage design and the importance of both customer and artiste provision. A range of fees for services was drawn up and members were required to charge fees based on that schedule until 1984 when the government Office of Fair Trading outlawed professional fee scales.
The initial architect members of the Society gradually withdraw so that clients were not tempted to think that an architect member of the Society would undertake both architectural and theatre consultancy within the same fee, partly in response to a resulting downward pressure on fees but largely because it was increasingly clear that the roles were complementary and the interchange between architect and theatre consultant was an important stimulus to better overall outcomes. In recognition of this symbiosis the Society, and subsequently the Institute of Theatre Consultants, does not allow membership to practising architects.
Whilst peer group review and the exchange of knowledge had always been the core of the professional body, the loss of the regulatory fee role changed it considerably. For many years as the profession and membership grew in breadth and depth and in accumulated experience the Society functioned as something of a club of fellow practitioners, seeking better ways of serving the design of venues. Awards for Practical Excellence in Design were made to completed projects as an encouragement to higher achievement in the field.
The Institute now embodies a very considerable body of experience and professional expertise in the creation and adaptation of venues for the performing arts.
As the membership and demand for services grew, larger practices were being formed, often with younger members contributing specialist knowledge to their practice but without always having a broad appreciation of the full range of work of theatre consultants. At design team meetings opportunities were being lost to improve elements of the developing design as the theatre consultancy member present was focused on his or her specialism. A need to broaden training to recognise the full range of responsibilities in context had developed. A taught Masters Degree in Theatre Consultancy was set up with Warwick University where the five-auditorium Warwick Arts Centre was able to provide technically-versed students with both management expertise and the example of many types of venue. The MA continues as a research degree but the more practical and shorter time commitment of a Diploma has been recognised as providing the taught training more conveniently. In 2016 the Society became the Institute of Theatre Consultants to recognise its role in training and professional development of members and the body of theatre consultancy expertise. Several very experienced members who have formally retired from practice retain their membership and participate in visits and seminars where their input is greatly valued.
- Stephen Joseph (1964-68), Theatre Historian
- Ian Albery (1964-current) Theatre Owner and Producer
- Frederick Bentham (1964-1986) Lighting Designer
- Norman Branson (1964-1967) Theatre Architect
- Elidir Davies (1964-1984) Theatre Architect
- Roderick Ham (1964-1971) Theatre Architect
- Sean Kenny (1964-1973) Stage Designer
- Herbert Marshall (1964-1968) Writer & producer
- Richard Pilbrow (1964- current: Honorary Fellow of the Institute) Lighting Designer & Producer
- John Wyckham (1964-2010) Production Manager
- Martin Carr (1964-2014) Production Manager
- John English (1964-1991) Producer & founder Midlands Arts Centre
- Norman Marshall (1964-1980) Producer
- Richard Southern (1964-1989) Theatre Historian
- Michael Warre (1964-1987) Stage and Lighting Designer
- Joe Davis (1964-1984) Lighting Designer
- Peter Jay (1964-1983) Theatre Architect
- Percy Corry (1964-1971 but Honorary Fellow thereafter) Theatre Equipment & Lighting Designer
- Eric Jordan (1971-?) Theatre Architect Head of Historic Buildings GLC; he guided the committee in the formation of the Society and its structure but was unable to become a member until he left the GLC in 1971)