MP Royston Smith has been on a fact-finding, behind the scenes tour of Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre as it undergoes an 11-week, £7.5 million refurbishment.
A keen supporter of culture within the city and, when leader of Southampton City Council, an instigator of the city’s Cultural Quarter, the theatre falls within Mr Smith’s Itchen constituency.
He was accompanied by Mayflower Chief Executive Michael Ockwell, who explained the full extent of the work. Mr Smith said: “Without doubt Mayflower Theatre is the jewel in the city’s cultural offering and has a big economic and educational impact on the city.
‘The refurbishment represents a substantial investment. Viewing the auditorium from the stage and seeing that every single seat had been removed while awaiting brand new seating was quite a fascinating perspective. Decorating is also well underway, and I have no doubt regular visitors will love the new colour scheme.’
“What I really admire is the fact that as a none for profit organisation it is largely funding the work from its reserves with a small percentage of the money coming from public donations. Not only are the trustees future proofing the theatre for generations to come but the experience for today’s theatre-goers will be even better from the third week in September when the theatre reopens.
‘I promised Michael I would do all I can to ensure that Mayflower is kept at the forefront of Government’s mind when ministers are looking for examples of how culture is thriving in the regions.’
The theatre attracts more than 500,000 people through its doors every year; almost 30,000 participated in its educational programme of workshops and community projects and it employs 230 people.
Michael Ockwell said:
I was delighted to show Royston the progress we’re making – the works are on schedule and on budget. Royston is a great supporter of culture generally and Mayflower particularly and understands the economic benefits our theatre brings to the city region – it is after all the third biggest by capacity in the UK outside London and the largest theatre in the south. His interest was much appreciated and it’s vitally important that we have champions speaking about Mayflower on a national stage.’
Among the work that will take place during the 11-week project will be:
Repainting the entire auditorium, with a brand-new red and gold colour scheme
Removing all of the seats in the stalls and circle and replacing with 1,659 brand-new (and wider) seats
Reupholstering all seats in the balcony
Installing new environmentally-friendly LED lighting
Increasing accessibility, with better facilities for people with disabilities
Moving the orchestra pit to under the stage
Renovating the plasterwork
As part of the theatre’s commitment to protecting the environment, 63 per cent of waste from the refurbishment project will be recycled.