Have questions about our plans for the Barnfield Theatre?
Take a look at our FAQs below…
The Northcott Theatre is delighted to announce that it’s taking over the management of Exeter’s Barnfield Theatre, with a three step plan: to secure the future of this important cultural venue for the city; to enhance the range of creative activities going on in the city centre and broaden the range of people taking part; and to work towards a major transformation of the Barnfield into a vibrant creative hub serving the communities of Exeter and the surrounding area.
Three things have come together to make this the right moment and the Barnfield the right place –
firstly, since the closure of the Bike Shed in 2018, artists and young people have been telling us that they need a new home for the theatre they want to make and see in the City;
secondly, over the last couple of years the Northcott team has been focused on stepping out of our building and working in the community with a more diverse cross-section of groups and individuals, and we’ve seen such a huge take-up of this work that we’ve been looking for somewhere in the heart of the City where we can support these groups and take this work to the next level;
and finally, the Barnfield Trust, who we were already talking to pre-Covid about ways to increase the impact the venue was having in the City, have been badly impacted by the successive Covid-lockdowns, meaning the future of the venue has looked uncertain.
By stepping in now, the Northcott hopes to secure the future of this important and much-loved local venue, lead the process of enhancing the spaces, facilities and creative opportunities that it offers the artists, young people and communities of Exeter and the surrounding region, and broaden the range of people using the venue.
In common with many cultural organisations, the Northcott has changed over the last couple of years, with a post-lockdown creative programme that now looks much more evenly balanced between the professional shows and events that we’re making or presenting at the Northcott Theatre and the opportunities we’re developing for the communities we serve to get creative, often in partnerships and in settings including schools, community spaces, other venues and online.
Adding the Barnfield Theatre into this mix, with its two performances spaces of 270 seats and 60 seats complementing the Northcott’s 460 seats, and with its scope to host a much wider range of creative activities than we can at present, just strengthens this direction of travel for the Northcott, as we seek to mean more to more people.
Practically, we’ll be growing and restructuring our team to operate both venues as a single joined-up organisation, and this will also be reflected in the way we curate and communicate a joined-up creative programme taking place across multiple spaces.
Ultimately taking on the management of the Barnfield should see us taking a step further towards becoming a broad-based, community-focused, creative organisation for the City, operating vibrant cultural venues, but also nurturing creativity and supporting positive change wherever it’s needed.
Although we’ve now taken over management of the Barnfield, the extended shutdown caused by Covid has had a big impact on the groups who have traditionally used the venue, and the building itself is in a poor state of repair, so it’s going to take a sustained effort to turn things around.
We’ll be starting with an initial period of essential maintenance ahead of a full-re-opening in late Spring/early Summer 2022. We’ll also be working with community groups to support them getting into the building again, and looking at increasing the range of professional shows taking place at the venue from Autumn 2022. We also expect to launch a fundraising campaign in Spring 2022 to secure the medium-term future of this historic building, which needs investment to put it back into a reasonable state of repair and begin addressing environmental sustainability.
Looking further ahead, and inspired by the views and aspirations of existing users, we’ve already started developing plans for enhancing spaces and facilities at the venue with further investment, and we’ll be finding ways to involve the voices of a wide range of artists, young people and community groups to ensure that this truly becomes the creative community hub we want it to be.
We can’t do this on our own. We need Devon-based artists, young people and communities to tell us what creative activities they want to see happening in the City, and get involved in helping make that a reality. We need volunteers to assist us in running events at the venue, or to get involved in a DIY task force to help us breathe new life into the building. If you’re passionate about the performing arts and have time/skills/enthusiasm we’d love to hear from you. We’ll be putting a series of calls out in the New Year, but if you can’t wait that long get in touch at [email protected].
And, to celebrate the start of this next phase of the Barnfield’s story, we’ll be throwing the doors wide for an ‘Open House’ event on Sunday 29th May – a fun-for-all-the-family chance for anyone interested in getting creative in Exeter to come and say hello, find out about the activities already going on at the venue, and hear about our plans for the future.