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Charcoalblue helps to extend the Lyric Theatre’s education offer

The new facilities are part of the Lyric's mulit-million pound expansion and modernisation designed by Rick Mather Architects.

Hammersmith’s Lyric Theatre now showcases state of the art rehearsal, film, cinema, dance and recording studios with technical systems designed by theatre consultancy Charcoalblue.

The new facilities are part of the Lyric’s mulit-million pound expansion and modernisation designed by Rick Mather Architects.

The new extension, called The Reuben Foundation Wing, houses brand new state-of-the-art facilities and will enable the Lyric to expand its programme of activity with young people, emerging and professional artists. Part of the Lyric’s future business model is to work closely with resident partner organisations who will contribute new art form expertise in dance, music, film and digital media alongside the Lyric’s specialism in theatre.

Charcoalblue joined the project in 2011, and worked closely with the design team and Lyric team: including Jessica Hepburn (executive director), Seamus Benson (head of production), Chris Harris (head of lighting) and Nick Manning (head of sound). The project was a challenge, with a tight footprint, complex lease negotiations and funding.

“We met with Chris, Jessica and Seamus to discuss how the vision of providing a new series of learning and educational experiences with the local community and people new to performing arts could be enhanced by making the technical systems and equipment accessible and usable,” explains Charcoalblue’s Managing Partner, Andy Hayles. “In turn, we joined Rick Mather Architects’ team and became part of the delivery of the new extension.”

Chris Harris comments: “During the tender process for a theatre consultant, Andy met with us and asked to see the architect’s plans. He instantly recognised the need for fluid movement between backstage and the new Reuben Foundation Wing and started to move room designations about. Most of these changes ended up in the final design.”

Charcoalblue drew on a decade of experience working on some of the UK’s most prestigious theatres to design the technical systems for the new Wing. Facilities include a film studio with track-mounted pantographs, allowing lighting equipment to be moved around easily; a theatre studio with motorised truss grids; dance studio and recording studios. All the studios are interconnected with audiovisual tielines. A small cinema is equipped with digital cinema technology. Charcoalblue needed to specify standalone systems for the new spaces and also interface these spaces to the existing building-wide services, such as paging systems.

“The new spaces at the Lyric are equipped with a broad range of entertainment technology,” explains Charcoalblue’s Senior Consultant, Ian Stickland. “Working with the client, we designed a cohesive overall infrastructure and then individual packages for the loose equipment. This ensured that the equipment for each different type of room was provided by a specialist in that area.”

Charcoalblue also worked closely with a number of other companies on the project, including the main contractor Mace, the electrical contractor ESG, and LSI Projects, which installed the technical infrastructure.

Additionally, Charcoalblue collaborated on the works with Sound Associates, which installed the cinema, and stage engineering systems contractor Independent Studio Services.

The stage lighting was supplied by White Light, and Autograph supplied the audio equipment.

“The process of creating professional facilities for rehearsal, dance, film and TV, digital arts and pro-audio all focused on providing young people with access and experience has been a truly enlivening experience,” Hayles continues. “Assembling these facilities in immediate adjacency as a factory of creativity is now the envy of many a higher education facility. And these can be accessed without A stars. You just need motivation and talent.”

Jessica Hepburn comments: “Charcoalblue is simply the company of choice when it comes to theatre consultants. They have worked with us to design and install a range of high spec professional facilities at the Lyric for our new Reuben Foundation Wing. People are just blown away by the spaces whenever we show them around and we couldn’t have achieved it without Charcoalblue’s expertise and experience behind us.”
Image ©Jim Stephenson

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