18 August 2008

Dramatic plans for Clifftown Studios unveiled

Southend Campus

Southend's Clifftown United Reformed Church

The University of Essex has submitted its plans to refurbish Clifftown United Reformed Church and create the new Clifftown Studios, with funding worth over £900K now approved for the project.

The University, which has been liaising with the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) and the Thames Gateway South Essex Partnership (TGSEP) on funding, recently received good news with EEDA’s Chief Executive's Group approving £960K Investing in Communities funding towards the development.

Built in 1866, this grade II listed building is close to Southend High Street, where the University already has its state-of-the-art Gateway Building. Under the new name of Clifftown Studios, the converted church will complement the University’s existing facilities by providing further space for the teaching, training, rehearsal and performance of East 15 Acting School students. This includes BA Specialist Performance Skills (Stage Combat) students who will make full use of the new space which the site offers for the fencing, broadsword and rapier training on their unique and physically demanding course. The high ceilings will be used to facilitate aerial training for the acrobatic elements of the School’s BA Physical Theatre and BA Community Theatre. In addition, the Clifftown Studios will provide opportunities for engagement with the community through a range of activities and collaborations with local and regional individuals, groups and arts organisations.

Further plans for the Clifftown Studios include the conversion of the nave into an exciting performance space with seating for up to 200 and innovative lighting and technical facilities. This beautiful and flexible space will be used for student, professional and community performances.

The church was in poor condition when purchased by the University but the Listed Building Consent Application (submitted to Southend-on-Sea Borough Council by Thomas Ford and Partners, architects for the project) sets out the principles of how it will be refurbished to retain many original features. The University of Essex has an outstanding record of restoring and managing listed buildings, notably Hatfields House at its Loughton Campus and Wivenhoe House Hotel at its Colchester Campus.

There will be an opportunity for the general public to drop in and see the Clifftown Studios plans, as well as meet with key University staff, in the Students’ Union at the Gateway Building, from 4pm to 6pm on Monday 8 September.

For further information please contact the University of Essex communications office on 01206 874377 or e-mail comms@essex.ac.uk.

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