Orchard Theatre will close for 6 weeks allowing redevelopment to take place during Summer 2019;

  • New auditorium seating will be installed on all levels – increasing capacity and improving sight-lines;
  • Lighting and sound systems will be replaced and reconfigured using energy-efficient equipment;
  • Access improvements will create additional spaces for wheelchair users and access customers;
  • New seating configuration will transition easily from seated to flat-floor events;
  • Capacity will increase to 1,025 – an increase of 69 from the current capacity of 956.

A major redevelopment of the Orchard Theatre, Dartford will take place this summer, led by venue operator HQ Theatres. The project – initially funded by Dartford Borough Council and off-set by future reductions in the annual management-fee paid to HQ – will significantly enhance the customer experience; allow the venue to widen the range of shows and events on offer; bring access arrangements at the theatre up to modern standards and improve energy-efficiency.

The £500,000 plan will see the entire auditorium stripped back, with brand-new seats installed in all areas of the auditorium. A reconfiguration of the seating layout will improve sightlines as well as increasing the capacity at the theatre to 1025. The plans will also deliver extra spaces in the auditorium for customers with access requirements. Brand-new motorized seating will be installed in the flat-floor area enabling the theatre to transition easily between seated and flatfloor events – in turn offering greater flexibility to visiting producers.

The improvements will also allow a wider range of shows and events to be presented to Dartford audiences. Alongside the seating replacement and seat-plan reconfiguration other significant redevelopments to be undertaken include: 

  • Installation of brand new house and auditorium lighting throughout the venue to improve energy efficiency;
  • Reconfiguration and enhancement of the in-house sound system to improve audibility and to offer improved infra-red and audio-description facilities;
  • Upgrades to the building power supply to facilitate state-of-the-art lighting equipment; Continues…
  • Installation of brand-new Robo-Spot follow-spot equipment, reducing the need for follow spots to be located within the auditorium and improving working conditions for operators;

New carpets will be installed and cosmetic and decorative enhancements will be completed throughout the auditorium and foyer spaces.

HQ Theatres will project-manage the redevelopment. In developing the plans the company has been working alongside a range of partners and suppliers including seating-specialists Auditoria Services, technical infrastructure experts AC Lighting and access consultancy Attitude is Everything who have advised on the access requirements.

Julian Russell, Chief Executive of HQ Theatres & Hospitality said: “We’re thrilled to be unveiling the details of the redevelopment at The Orchard in partnership with Dartford Borough Council. The theatre is already a powerhouse venue in the HQ portfolio – punching above its weight in terms of the shows on offer, the audiences served and the range of community events programmed. This major redevelopment will position The Orchard brilliantly for future success; improving facilities for audiences and visiting companies; and protecting the council’s cultural asset for many years to come. It’s enormously encouraging to work alongside a Local Authority with the vision, foresight and flexibility to rethink existing funding models to deliver facility improvements in this way – and of course to have the opportunity to deliver this redevelopment for the people of Dartford whose venue, ultimately, this is.”

Jeremy Kite, Leader of Dartford Borough Council said: “Investing in the theatre is part of our strategy to support quality services, quality facilities and celebrate a venue in the town that can bring our community together. With so many councils cutting support for theatres it would have been easy for us to do the same, but it would not have been right. We have an unshakeable belief in the value of the arts as part of a strong society. The fact that the theatre is going from strength to strength is testament to the fact that the council has made the right spending decisions in tandem with HQ Theatre’s excellent stewardship. The Orchard is rapidly gaining a reputation for being one of the best theatres outside of Central London .”

Lorna Strawson, Theatre Director at The Orchard Theatre, said: “We can’t wait to see the finished results and to unveil the wide-ranging improvements to our customers and to visiting producers. We know how much our audiences value the theatre. Over the past 12 months we welcomed around a quarter of a million people to a show at The Orchard – with many thousands more engaging with us through our Community and Creative Learning programme. The impact of those visits on the local economy is significant – through associated spending on transport, parking, and visits to local bars, restaurants and shops. These improvements will make sure we’re well-placed to continue to offer the widest range of professional shows, community events and creative learning work to our customers for many years to come – and in an environment that is both accessible and excellent in every way