A New Home for the Tower Theatre?
Plans progress for the acquisition of Sunstone House, Stoke Newington
At the October 2016 AGM, we told the Tower Theatre Company about a possible new home. Nearly a year has gone by with negotiations, studies and surveys commissioned to make sure that Sunstone House in Stoke Newington would be affordable and fit for purpose. All this behind-the-scenes work is nearly complete and the next steps could see us achieve our aim! Clearly we wouldn't buy the building without making sure that we can get appropriate permissions and a planning application to the London Borough of Hackney has been made *. We have also successfully applied for a bar licence, so we would be able to operate our own theatre bar again.
If the planning application is approved, it will allow the change of use of the building to a theatre as well as allowing alterations at the front to improve access.
This is a major step forward and, although there are still contracts and agreements to thrash out, the prospect of the Tower Theatre Company occupying its own building again is getting closer to reality - and is very exciting.
If all goes to plan we will need a lot of help, especially during the alteration works and what promises to be the biggest "get-in" that the company will have ever seen!
David Taylor and Sarah Ambrose
on behalf of the Property Group and Board of Trustees
* We should know whether the application is successful by early October. The application can be viewed via the Hackney planning portal here - go to Address Search and type in 16 as the property number then Northwold Road in the Street Address box. You can also register your support for our venture via this webpage.
Frequently Asked Questions ....
- What and where is Sunstone House?
Sunstone House is an impressive Victorian Gothic building situated in Stoke Newington (N16 7HR) which has been a Methodist Chapel, a Synagogue and, mostly recently, a women-only gym.
What does this property offer the Tower Theatre Company?
Plans for Sunstone House include a flexible theatre with up to 120 seat capacity, three rehearsal rooms, an office, some space for set builds, props and costume stores as well as the all-important bar and social space.
How close are we to completion?
Once planning permission is granted the purchase should complete quickly thereafter.
How soon can we move in?
We hope to be able to move many of our activities into the building quickly after we take ownership once we have the space fit for us to occupy. Relocating the office, props and costume store and rehearsal space will free up our current outgoings to ensure that costs are contained. All being well we will aim to launch our first season of plays there in Autumn 2018.
How much of our "wish-list" does this cover?
Much of it! The building will suit all our major needs. We will be able to revive Friends evenings, social events, play readings, new writing nights and devised work to run alongside our regular programme of productions. Although we may need to keep one or more of our arches for bulky furniture storage and some set pre-builds, we expect to be able to bring most of the company's activities under one roof.
Will we be OK financially after buying Sunstone House?
Since we left the Canonbury Tower in 2003, we've been looking for a permanent home for the company which will enable us to remain financially secure and viable for a long-term future. After more than a year of negotiation Sunstone House has become a realistic choice both from a cost and adaptability perspective. The Board of Trustees has carried out some rigorous costings and forecasting and the Business Plans has been assessed and deemed robust by an independent accountancy firm. We will have to raise some further funds for specific additional works in due course (for example to make the building properly accessible) but we can afford to do what we need in order to move in right now.
When can I see what it looks like, and take a tour?
You can see the outside of the building from Northwold Road. It is just off Stoke Newington High Street. Once the purchase has gone through we will hold a series of open days for members and also for local groups to get to know us.
How will we fit into the local arts and cultural scene?
We expect to be the only theatre in the immediate vicinity of Stoke Newington and certainly the only theatre owned by a non-professional company. The Park Theatre in Finsbury Park and the Arcola Theatre in Dalston are nearby and there are plans to create a new arts hub in the old Savoy cinema on Kingsland Road. We have been starting to make many contacts in the area, including with the Hackney Society and the Stoke Newington Literary Festival. These all have the positive advantage of making the area a vibrant cultural community within which we can play an important part.
How can I help to get us up and running in the new space?
It will be all hands on deck when (fingers crossed) the sale is complete and the building work has taken place. We will need as many helpers as possible to relocate to our new home and we'll need lots of help to christen the bar!
We will update these FAQs as the project progresses.