Joint Statement – Dartford Borough Council & Trafalgar

Following national guidance and advice from building surveyors that Dartford’s Orchard Theatre should be closed last week because of concerns related to Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in the building’s roof, Trafalgar Theatres and Dartford Borough Council (DBC) wanted to give an update on the situation.

We have been greatly touched by the concern and support shown to The Orchard since the announcement. It underscores the huge role our theatre plays in the cultural and economic life of the town. We had no alternative but to close the theatre based on the advice we received but are committed to re-opening to audiences as soon as we can.

We initially confirmed a one-month closure to allow more surveys. These have focused on whether work could be limited to specific parts of the roof and be phased over a period during which performances could continue. It is now clear that a phased approach is not possible.

DBC has therefore begun the process of fast-tracking a full roof replacement project and are engaging with specialist contractors to design and build a new auditorium roof. We may also look to carry out some other improvements during the time the theatre is closed.

The works will be substantial, but we have long-term confidence in the venue and that means investing fully to prepare it for decades of future service even if it means a longer period of closure in the short term.

At the same time, Trafalgar Theatres are working with the council to minimise the impact on performances including exploring alternative ways and places to provide shows. We hope to find ways to reduce the impacts on theatre goers, the great team at The Orchard Theatre and the local businesses who benefit from the custom of theatregoers and casts.We are grateful for the support Trafalgar Theatres has received from the wider arts community, producers, and artists. At the same time, DBC has begun discussions with local groups and amateur societies to ensure they are fully supported too.

Exploring ways to get a performance programme up-and-running will take a short time so, sadly, we will be extending the formal suspension of performances at The Orchard Theatre until at least 31st October. Ticket holders should wait to be contacted by the venue with information about rescheduled dates or, where this is not possible, full reimbursement. There is no need for customers to contact the theatre at this stage.