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New King’s Head theatre wins planning approval from Town Hall

Plans to open in time for 50th birthday as theatre’s switch to bigger venue gets the go-ahead

27 April, 2018 — By Helen Chapman

How the new King’s Head could look after its switch to nearby Islington Square

THE famous King’s Head theatre hopes to be up and running in a new home in time for its 50th birthday after winning planning approval.

Councillors gave the green light for a new 250-seater playhouse at a meeting on Monday evening – a project that will be part of the £400million Islington Square redevelopment. The theatre hopes its new permanent home will be open by 2020, the year of its half-century.

It will replace the smaller pub theatre on Upper Street, well known in theatre circles for staging ambitious and ground-breaking works.

Town Hall planning chairman Robert Kahn said: “This is a fantastic application. We all love the King’s Head. This is a real chance to see a great new venue preserve the cultural ethos for the theatre.”

He added: “It will improve the vibrancy and diversity of the area. There are lots of moving parts in this application which will require the developer and the applicant to work collaboratively together.”

The King’s Head on Upper Street

The King’s Head was founded in 1970 and played host to actors Alan Rickman, Joanna Lumley and Hugh Grant at the beginning of their careers.

The refurbishments, which required Grade II-listed building consent, include a new ground-floor entrance and a first-floor outdoor terrace.

Audience sizes would increase from its current 110 seats to two separate 250 and 85-seat theatres, just yards away from its current stage at the back of the pub.

The nearby John Salt Bar is expected to house the theatre temporarily when the works begin.

Giris Rabinovitch, from developers Sager, told the Tribune: “It’s a treasure to the commun­ity. I am hoping, as I know that the King’s Head Theatre group are, that with the added help that the granting of the planning permission will provide they can now begin the long, hard task ahead in earnest to raise the money needed to bring the King’s Head Theatre to Islington Square and to the community at large.”

East, a production staged at the current King’s Head earlier this year. Photo: Alex Brenner

The developers have gifted a site for the theatre, plus more than £600,000 towards the cost of the development estimated at around £2.8m. The balance has so far to be raised by the theatre.

Mr Rabinovitch added: “I consider myself a theatregoer and hope the project will have a lot of support.”

James Seabright, chairman of the board of trustees of the King’s Head Theatre Pub, told to the Tribune: “I am pleased with the great support from the local councillors.”

And Adam Spreadbury-Maher, the King’s Head’s artistic director, added: “In our new home we will be able to continue to experiment in how to push the boundaries of what defines excellent fringe theatre and opera. Our new home will triple our capacity, which is much needed as we are artistically bursting at the seams.”


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