Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
The Belgrade Theatre was built in 1958 as part of the reconstruction of Coventry after World War II. The original listed building features a two-tier main auditorium which holds 858 whilst a flexible second space holding 250-300 was added as part of a major capital project in 2007. It remains one of the largest regional producing theatres in Britain.
2020 Redevelopment Project
In 2017 it was announced that Coventry had won the title of UK City of Culture for 2021. This competition is run by the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) every four years. The winning city can expect a major boost in tourism and investment as they host a spectacular year of events as well as a build-up period and legacy programme.
In preparation for this the Belgrade launched its 2020 Redevelopment Project to ensure the theatre is a sparkling cultural gem for 2021 and beyond. Forecast to cost £4.8m, the theatre has secured £3.7m through a generous package of support from Coventry City Council, DCMS and Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership. Its Play Your Part fundraising campaign is seeking to raise a further £600,000 from individuals and corporates by September 2020.
Evertaut was first invited to visit the theatre in May 2018 to survey the existing seats and provide costs for the refurbishment. Our Contracts Manager met with the Project Director and the Belgrade’s Director of Production.
It had been identified that the existing seats were too low which was impacting their comfort and there was a recurring problem with the fabric on the seat arms being worn away due to patrons brushing past them. The theatre found themselves regularly having to replace arms due to this wear and tear and wanted a solution to this problem.
At this meeting we were given a seat and back from the auditorium and were asked to submit samples and costs for assessment.
As the theatre is a listed building it was a strict requirement that all the seats were refurbished to their original specification and that any new materials were an exact match for the old.
Following the meeting we manufactured several sample seats for the theatre to consider; these included an exact match to the existing seat and a version incorporating an additional 25mm foam at the front to help increase the seat height. The project team were impressed by the quality and comfort of these samples and they also received positive feedback from audience members who tested them out. The Conservation Officer from Coventry City Council inspected the samples and confirmed his approval in the approach.
Following on from this a modified arm design was proposed by the project architects to address the issue with wear and tear. This was a hardwood arm with a recess in the middle where it could be padded and upholstered to match the original arm style. Evertaut manufactured some sample arms and these were also approved by the Conservation Officer.
To address the seat height issue, it was agreed the seat with additional foam was the preferred option and that the seat frames should also be raised by sitting them on a block of 18mm painted timber.
In early 2019 the building works were put out to tender and the contract was awarded to Arden Construction. The first phase began in the Summer of 2019 with Evertaut being commissioned to refurbish all the seating in the 1958 Main Stage Auditorium.
Removal of Seats
As seating refurbishment work is carried out at Evertaut’s Blackburn factory, the first job was for us to visit the theatre to remove all the seats, backs and arms from the stalls and circle. Before the removal process could begin, we had to survey the existing seats and draw up a plan noting the number sequencing to ensure each seat could be put back in the correct location.
We also took out the metal seat posts and brackets in the stalls as these required sanding and repainting. The circle metalwork was left in situ to be painted.
Once all the seating components were received back at our factory our experienced team of upholsterers got to work.
The existing fabric and foams were removed from the seats and backs and replaced with new foam which was then fully tailored and upholstered with Martini velvet fabric from the Sunbury Zurich range. New seat and back outer panels were stained a light mahogany colour and lacquered to match the original versions.
The new hardwood arms were stained and lacquered to match the seats with upholstered foam pads rebated in the top. The seat posts and brackets from the stalls were lightly sanded and repainted. Old covers were removed from the end of row panels and new fabric covers were fitted.
In total Evertaut refurbished 818 seats from the stalls and circle, 26 loose seats from the boxes and 3 usher seats. We also reupholstered the sills from the boxes and the handrails from the balcony and repaired any broken metalwork.
Once the refurbishment work was complete Evertaut’s team of fitters returned to the Belgrade in line with the programme of works, to put everything back into position. All the metalwork, seats, backs, arms, end panels and handrails were re-fitted. New seat numbers and row letters with fonts and materials matching the originals were also fixed in place.
1958 Main Stage Auditorium Re-opening
The 1958 Main Stage Auditorium re-opened on 11 September 2019 with local businesses and theatre goers being invited to name a seat in support of the Play Your Part campaign. The auditorium looked stunning with its fresh decoration and newly refurbished seating and feedback from audiences has been very positive.
“We’re delighted to be working with a range of businesses – such as Evertaut – who wish to play their part in supporting the Belgrade Theatre to become a sparkling cultural gem for 2021 and beyond. Phase 1 of our 2020 Redevelopment Project is now complete and we’re receiving great feedback from our audiences, as to our lovely newly refurbished and welcoming 1958 Main Stage Auditorium. We’re also thankful to Coventry City Council, Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership and Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport - for their generous funding package of £3.7m.”
Helen Hotchkiss - Head of Development, Belgrade Theatre, Coventry
Pictured amongst the newly refurbished seats, local business owners were invited to attend
a Behind the Scenes Business Breakfast in support of the Play Your Part campaign.
For more information on the Belgrade Theatre:
Visit the Belgrade Theatre website here.
Find out more about the theatre’s Play Your Part fundraising campaign here.
Are your theatre seats in need of refurbishment?
If your theatre seats are in need of refurbishment or you have an upcoming capital project you need to cost out, Evertaut can help. To make an enquiry, please complete and submit the short form below.