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Project information

Transforming Oxford Playhouse

To make our building as modern, fun and accessible as the world-class theatre we present to over 150,000 people each year. In 2016 we will complete a three-year refurbishment plan to make our Grade II* listed building more comfortable and welcoming for all, whilst increasing sustainability.

August 2016 - August 2016

Charity information: Oxford Playhouse

Oxford Playhouse logo
  • Need


    The beautiful Art Deco auditorium was last refurbished in the early 90s and is looking its age! It’s known for being extremely comfortable, but after many years of service the seats need replacing, the carpets are threadbare and the walls need a lick of paint before the shabby interior begins to affect audience experience and our ability to attract new audiences. We are also committed to reducing our environmental impact, replacing stage lighting with LED lights; and improving access facilities.


    We are refurbishing the entire auditorium, including replacing all 613 seats, to give both old and new audiences the high standard of comfort they expect from Oxford Playhouse on a great night out. We will replace our stage lights with environmentally efficient LED fittings (as we have elsewhere in the building) to reduce our environmental impact (and electricity bill). We will also adjust our access facilities to extend the range and increase the number of customers who can benefit from them.

  • Aims

    Aim 1

    To give current audiences the best possible experience and to attract new audiences.


    » We will replace the seats to maintain our reputation as a uniquely comfortable theatre with sufficient leg room and good sightlines for all.

    What success will look like

    We will monitor audience numbers and growth following the refurbishment and look at feedback from our audiences.

    Aim 2

    To increase our commitment to environmental sustainability.


    » We will replace lighting with environmentally friendly LEDs and improve window and door insulation throughout the building.

    What success will look like

    We will monitor our energy usage and projected reductions to our running costs following the refurbishment against targets in our Sustainability Action Plan.

    Aim 3

    To increase our ability to adapt and continue to work in a challenging climate.


    » By attracting new audiences we can increase earned income through ticket sales and increased use of our café bars.
    » Refurbishing the auditorium means that the theatre will be fit for purpose for the next 15-20 years.

    What success will look like

    We will monitor our earned income from ticket sales and spend in the café bars against robust and ambitious fiscal targets set out in our 3-year business plan.

    Aim 4

    To improve access facilities for audience members who rely upon them to enjoy shows.


    » We will extend the Sennheiser system which amplifies sound for visitors using a headset and enables audio described performances for the blind.
    » We will improve the facilities for captioned performances for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.
    » We will maintain and improve easy step-free access and add more seats which can be removed to accommodate wheelchairs in the Stalls.

    What success will look like

    We will monitor take-up of our access facilities against targets within our 3-year Business Plan and Diversity Action Plan and actively seek feedback from those using them.

  • Impact


    We recognise that our building must evolve to suit the 21st century as much as the work we present onstage. The biggest long-term change will be the ability to deliver a high standard of comfort for the next 25 years as the theatre heads towards its centenary. It will also allow us to have a positive impact on the environment with a move towards more sustainable methods. The project will also improve the quality of our access facilities.


    We will be working to tight deadlines. Any significant delay could affect our income. We have extensive experience of refurbishment projects during limited closure periods and will be working with top class, tested contractors. We have ambitious fundraising targets. If they are not met, we have sufficient reserves to operate while the work is scaled back or re-scheduled. However, we have a strong track record in fundraising and a clear plan so are confident that targets are achievable.


    Donors will receive regular newsletters and email updates. We hold donor evenings with our Chief Executive who reports on developments and will invite donors to a launch event. Our audited accounts are published online and our Annual Submission Report is available on the Arts Council England site.

  • Budget

    Budget - Project Cost: £385,690

    Loading graph....
      Amount Heading Description
      £272,022 Refurbishment Seats, repairs, flooring, decoration, access
      £41,500 Lighting LED stage lights, aisle lights
      £72,168 Additional costs Professional fees, irrecoverable VAT, contingency

    Current Funding / Pledges

    Source Amount
    Arts Council England £214,395 Guaranteed
  • Background


    Situated in the heart of the historic city, Oxford Playhouse has a rich history and in recent years has gone from strength to strength, presenting a high quality programme as well as producing its own shows. Oxford has a diverse population with pockets of deprivation and areas of little engagement with the Arts, alongside some of the UK’s wealthiest neighbourhoods. We aim to be a theatre for all residents and to increase audience diversity, particularly engaging with the 22% BAME population.


    Current and future audience members at the Playhouse will benefit from a more welcoming and comfortable environment for their night out at the theatre. The Playhouse will benefit from the increase in income which in turn will ensure that we continue to present an excellent programme and extend our learning and community programme. Patrons of the theatre with particular access needs will also benefit from the improvement to our access facilities.

  • Why Us?

    Why Us?

    Oxford Playhouse is an outstanding regional theatre presenting and producing a world-class artistic programme with audiences of over 150,000 a year and a learning and participation programme reaching over 14,000 people of all ages each year. We subsidise tickets for everyone and provide free tickets to those in need of support to attend. Governance and financial stability is robust. We are a major contributor to the cultural life of the city and wider region.

    Read more about the Charity running this project.


    Louise Chantal, Chief Executive

    Louise has 20 years’ experience of theatre production, general management, programming and marketing in the commercial and public sectors.

    Danby Bloch, Chair Of The Board

    A tax and finance expert, Danby is former Chair of Governors of Oxford Brookes University and board member of Modern Art Oxford and OVADA.

    Jo Osborne, Development Manager

    Jo has led on fundraising at OP for nearly 10 years and has consistently met income targets for revenue and capital projects.

    The Senior Management Team

    The SMT has extensive experience of overseeing building maintenance in a Grade II* listed building, financial management and fundraising.