It is highly unusual for a town the size of Chipping Norton to have a theatre - it provides an eclectic programme of live theatre, music, dance and comedy, culminating in the famous annual pantomime, which attracts visitors from across the globe for its charm and tradition. The Theatre also screens a wide range of contemporary, classic, art house and foreign language films throughout the year.
The history of how the theatre came into being is as follows:-
1888 : The building that now houses The Theatre started life in 1888, as a Salvation Army Citadel. On the 3rd August 1888 Commander Herbert Booth and Major Oliphant laid the foundation stones for the Citadel, which can still be seen on the front of the building and inside the auditorium, with the following inscription: "These stones were laid by 100 of those who through great persecution boldly and conscientiously served their God"
1962 : The Salvation Army left the Citadel in 1962 and it was used for some years as a furniture warehouse.
1968: John and Tamara Malcolm, two Royal Shakespeare Company actors, moved to Chipping Norton. They discovered the now deserted citadel and recognised its potential. The building was designed and constructed by the engineers who built the Victorian Music Halls and, although small, was perfect in proportion and acoustics.
1973 (September) The Malcolms learnt that the citadel in Spring Street was for sale. Within two days, they persuaded an anonymous benefactor to loan them the money to buy the building and submitted an application for planning permission to convert it into a theatre. Cash for the project began to pour in from fund-raising ventures. In December 1973, The Theatre presented its first professional Christmas show, four performances of ' The Beauty and the Beast' at Chipping Norton Town Hall and in April 1974 a charitable company was registered to run The Theatre.
1974 (June) West Oxfordshire District Council granted full planning permission for the conversion of the Citadel. A grant from the Gulbenkian Foundation in the same year enabled The Theatre to purchase the cottage adjoining the Citadel for conversion into a bar and gallery. With the help of grants from the Arts Council, the BFI and the Pilgrim Trust and many individuals, scores of Chipping Norton volunteers laboured to convert and equip the buildings.
1975 (29th August) The Theatre opened its doors for the very first time. Initially only showing films, The Theatre's programme soon expanded to include professional theatre productions, classical and folk music and Old Time Music Hall. A highlight of the year was, and still is, The Theatre's own pantomime.
1990 , 7 Goddards Lane (around the corner to The Theatre) was purchased. This provided a daytime box office, new dressing rooms, a green room for artists, a large rehearsal room and new administration offices, all linked to the Spring Street building by covered walkway. On 2nd April 1993, this extension of The Theatre was completed and officially opened.
1996 The Theatre, Chipping Norton was one of the first theatres to receive money from the National Lottery and in October 1996 reopened after 6 months extensive refurbishment. The Spring Street (evening) Box Office was rebuilt and the foyer space improved, new toilets featuring specially commissioned tiles by Brian Elliott and Sue Ayres and facilities for the disabled were installed and the bar area was increased. Improvements to the Auditorium included - better access to balcony, side balcony benches were replaced, a new control booth for stage management and film projection was constructed, an induction loop system installed for the hard of hearing and 3 new rows of seating were added. The roof was raised over the stage area and wings, then squared off to enable the full width of the space to be used. All these improvements enabled the Theatre to host larger companies, extend runs of shows and present a dance programme.
As part of the Lottery refurbishments, Graham Rust was commissioned to paint murals in the bar and stairwell area. This was his first public arts commission received by Graham in this country.
2000 (June) Tamara Malcolm was awarded an MBE for services to theatre.
2001 (January) The Theatre celebrated it's 25th Anniversary with an exhibition entitled 'The Little Big Time : Silver Jubilee Celebration - The 25 year story of The Theatre.'
2002 (May) Tamara Malcolm MBE retires from her post as Artistic Director
2002 (October) Caroline Sharman joins Chipping Norton Theatre as Artistic Director.
Address - The Theatre 2 Spring Street, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire, OX7 5NL.
Web Site www.chippingnortontheatre.co.uk
Admin Telephone: 01608 642349 Fax: 01608 642324
Box Office Telephone: 01608 642350
Fax: 01608 642324