Redeveloping Bristol Old Vic

On these pages you'll find a rolling newsflow of the key moments concerning the redevelopment of our beautiful theatre.

In 2011, we completed a £12million project to transform our centuries-old Georgian auditorium, whilst building state-of-the-art rehearsal and office space. Now, we turn our attentions to the front of house, as we seek to rebuild the foyer, the publically-facing facade, our Grade I listed Coopers' Hall, our catering offering, social spaces and a brand new studio theatre.

It'll take a lot of work - and your help - to get there, but we hope to begin the job during our 250th anniversary in 2016.

Read from the bottom up to see how the project's progressing, or click here to see how you might be able to support the project, and the benefits you can enjoy for doing so.

The new Bristol Old Vic


Some artist impressions and architectural drawings showing how Bristol Old Vic might look come 2017.

The real work starts here...

Posted: 21 Feb 2014

Some very exciting news to report. This week, we have hit some major milestones on the road to redeveloping the beautiful Bristol Old Vic.

• Our exciting bid to redevelop Bristol Old Vic's public spaces and make it a welcoming space for the whole of Bristol has been approved by Bristol City Council (BCC)
• This follows on from BCC's grant of £0.5 million from their Capital Programme to support the project
• In addition, Arts Council England has announced £5million of grant support from the National Lottery-funded Capital Programme

When complete, you'll be able to enjoy the wide, open space of a new entrance foyer, lifts to all floors, more loos, a new studio theatre, longer bars and the return of Coopers' Hall to its original 18th century use as an events space for the city.

The new foyer design is inspired by the openness of an Italian piazza, with natural light filling the space through high-level windows. Open all day, the comfortable, spacious and relaxed foyer will have a welcoming café atmosphere. In the early evening, the restaurant will offer a quick snack or a full pre-show dinner.

The new space will also meet high environmental standards, with a ‘green' planted roof and passive ventilation through an underground labyrinth, instead of air conditioning. This will make the new buildings efficient to run, as well as reducing the organisation's carbon footprint.

Tom Morris, Artistic Director, said:
"We are absolutely thrilled that Haworth Tompkins' visionary redesign of our foyer spaces, together with their recovery of the magnificent Coopers' Hall, has been granted planning approval.

"Because of the site's complex architectural history, many feared this would be impossible to achieve. But these atmospheric and characterful plans have brilliantly unlocked Bristol Old Vic's historical riches and allowed us to reveal Bristol's architectural gem of a theatre after nearly 250 years."

Steve Tompkins, Director of Haworth Tompkins, said:
"We are delighted that the Bristol Old Vic Anniversary project has been given such a strong endorsement from the planning committee. It lays the foundation for the next phase of honing, detailing and prototyping as we prepare to take this important project onto site next year. The team have really appreciated the level of intelligent and engaged feedback from the planning department and the people of Bristol."

George Ferguson, Bristol's Mayor, said:
"Without the arts, Bristol's not Bristol. It is a creative city, innovative and entrepreneurial and Bristol Old Vic is one of our cultural foundation stones. I know this funding will be used to make the theatre a great place for everyone."

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England said:
"We're delighted to support the refurbishment through this award. This will be a transformative project. Bristol Old Vic is a flagship cultural destination and we look forward to seeing the venue flourish with the help of our investment."

Take a virtual tour of the new Bristol Old Vic

Posted: 20 Jan 2014

Take a look at how our foyer, public spaces and Studio theatre might look come 2016 - our 250th anniversary.

For more information on ways that you can support the project and enjoy a number of benefits in return, see here.

Animation: Haworth Tompkins Architects

Your feedback - a big thank you

Posted: 10 Jan 2014

Calling All Artists!

Posted: 22 Aug 2013

We've announced that we're preparing to seek planning permission to improve and open up the theatre's public areas with an exciting refurbishment, to be completed in 2016, the theatre's 250th anniversary year.

As you'll remember, we refurbished the auditorium and back of house in 2011-12. We said then that we wanted to finish the job, making the public spaces a match for the beautiful auditorium and doing this historic theatre - and Bristol - justice. This is where you come in. We would very much welcome the chance to make a presentation about our plans of the refurbishment and hear your thoughts, ideas, concerns and questions.

We would like to invite you to the following consultation on Thu 10 Oct:

17:00-18:00: Ferment Meeting to discuss the impact of the anniversary works on the Ferment programme.

18:00-19:00: Invited meeting of Artists presentation of the scheme and discussion.

It's early days and we don't have all the answers, but you can help us make the plans the best they can be. Everyone is invited to both parts of the meeting & if you would like to attend please RSVP to

"The finish line's in sight!"   

Posted: 6 July 2013              

An early sketch of what Bristol Old Vic's front of house might look like

When we launched the refurbishment of the Theatre's auditorium and back-of-house in 2011, we said we hoped to follow it up with a second phase, to be completed in the theatre's 250th anniversary year: 2016. After the widely acclaimed reopening of the Theatre last year, that time has come.

Starting this summer, we are asking the people of Bristol what they want from the theatre's public spaces, as we prepare to seek planning permission to improve and open up our public areas.

Whether you're a regular or haven't yet made it in, we want to know what Bristolians want.

We know that the lobby, box office, cafe-bar and certainly the loos just don't do justice to this beautiful theatre. They're hard to access if you have limited mobility, it can be a challenge to find friends or reach the bar in the interval - and it can even be intimidating: that's not what a theatre should be. We're really glad the cafe and sofas have become a great meeting space - mums and babies and lunching workers sit alongside actors, writers and audiences. But we need to open this place up much more if it's to keep serving the city: this internationally-renowned theatre is Bristol's Old Vic."

Tom Morris
Artistic Director

Plans are evolving and our team aims to improve every public area, from the entrance and box office, to the restaurant, bar, meeting spaces and loos. We'll also tackle staff offices and the Studio. It's at this important stage - while everything's being worked out - that we need to hear from the public.

We obviously have lots of ideas, and of course, there are restrictions on what can go where and what's affordable. But if we get the go-ahead, we're going to be bold and do it right: this fantastic space shouldn't suffer another design compromise. That's why we need to hear from people across Bristol, as well as our staff and regular audiences."

Tom Morris
Artistic Director

We are seeking views from a wide range of Bristol organisations and businesses, its neighbours, audiences, visitors and from people who don't yet make it into the building. Talks have already begun with the City Council and heritage organisations. These will all contribute to the plans that are submitted to Bristol City Council in the autumn.

At a public meeting in August, audience members were given short questionnaires to encourage them to share their ideas. Throughout the summer, visitors to the theatre will also be encouraged to give their feedback.

With £5m earmarked from Arts Council England, we need to secure £7m, as well as planning permission, before anything is certain. A major fundraising appeal will be launched.

If we can secure support from Arts Council England and Bristol City Council, we're confident that we can raise the rest of the money to finish the refurbishment of the theatre and ensure that the public spaces are a match for the beautiful auditorium. This should be a welcoming and exciting space for everyone, regardless of background, age, and their experience of theatre."

Emma Stenning
Executive Director

But be assured: the theatre will not "go dark" during any building work. The show must go on!

The 2011 Works

In 2011, we completed the redevelopment of our historic Georgian auditorium, rehearsal spaces and back offices. Hours after the builders had left, Philip Vile's photographs (below) captured the first few moments of the theatre, blushing in its beautiful, freshly-spruced state.

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