The previous page indicated some of the many decisions that must be made in the design if the venue is to serve the artistic programme and be sustainable. The service that the Theatre Consultant offers the owner or client as the ‘directing mind’ for the new or refurbished venue will vary greatly according to the experience of the owner, operator or artistic team leader. Many with established operations will need little help in formulating the spatial requirement and business plan. Here the role of the Theatre Consultant is likely to be that of a ‘sounding board’ for potential new ideas, alternative elements that might enhance the core operation and general help in supporting the additional workload of managing the process of the design and construction from the client’s viewpoint.
For refurbishments, where the need is to improve the operational functions of the building the Theatre Consultant can play an important role in ensuring that a particular current operational problem does not dominate the design solution but is addressed within the context of other opportunities.
For conversions the experienced eye of a Theatre Consultant can help to appreciate the potential (or shortcomings) of a proposed existing building, helping to decide on its suitability before an expensive design study is commissioned.
The Theatre Consultant is a shoulder to cry on at the worst times and someone who shares your confidence in the project at all times.
A new venture may be created to support a town centre retail offer by enhancing evening footfall or simply giving the town a particular identity. For instance Chichester Festival Theatre now epitomises Chichester as much as the Cathedral and helps to attract visitors and shoppers alike. The Sage in Gateshead has (together with the Baltic Mills and the Angel of the North) had a direct effect on raising the town’s profile alongside its riparian partner Newcastle-upon-Tyne, indeed Gateshead’s hotel capacity increased on the arrival of the Sage and again on its major refurbishment. Milton Keynes’s Theatre has helped popularise a smaller retail outlet centre and populated an important car park area at night with theatre customers and restaurants. And of course iconic theatres can draw international tourism, Oslo’s Opera House springs immediately to mind. No new facility should be considered without regard to this kind of potential.
No new facility can be created without the active or tacit support of the local authority. From planning, through profile-raising for the venture and to giving confidence to funders, local authority support is likely to be crucial at times. Theatre Consultants can offer parallel examples and practical assessments of audience potential, market placement to support the new project to help the authority understand the potential opportunity. The path from concept to completion is a long and often arduous one, with many highs and lows along the way. The Theatre Consultant is a shoulder to cry on at the worst times and someone who shares your confidence in the project at all times.