Cambridge theatre handed £16m grant to carry out first phase of major redevelopment

Cambridge Arts Theatre has been given a £16 million grant so it can undertake the first phase of a huge redevelopment project. The major cash injection will come from Lord David and Dame Susie Sainsbury via the Gatsby Charitable Foundation.

It will enable the independent theatrical charity, based in St Edward’s Passage, to realise the initial stage of its large-scale revamp, designed by architect Ian Chalk, which will include the total refurbishment of the current 666-seat auditorium, upgraded audience facilities, improved technical services, sight lines and acoustic performance.

That will give the theatre greater scope for creating new in-house work and ensure that it can continue to attract the best touring productions to Cambridge.

Read next: Cambridge residents object to 'pointless destruction' of Art Deco cinema planned for demolition Read next: Cambridge mum in tears as son's grave left in 'a mess' for the second time

Cambridge Arts Theatre is one of the country’s leading playhouses for drama, dance, musicals and family shows offering the best of national touring theatre alongside its own highly successful homegrown productions.

It is committed to sustaining the arts for future generations through diverse and innovative programming and educational initiatives that support the work on its stage.

Lord Sainsbury said: “The Cambridge Arts Theatre sits at the very heart of Cambridge’s rich cultural heritage, and the careers of many of our finest actors and directors of both stage and screen have started at the Cambridge Arts Theatre.

“We were first alerted to the need for wholesale refurbishment at the theatre by Sir Ian McKellen during the tour of his one-man show.

“He made his own acting debut at Cambridge Arts Theatre in 1959, and we are delighted to make the donation today.”

At the same time, the announcement signals the launch of a fundraising campaign to add a 200-seat, fully-equipped, studio theatre on the roof of the existing building.

The new space will allow for a second stream of productions to increase the reach of the theatre for the entire community.

It will build on the founding vision of John Maynard Keynes who funded the construction of the Cambridge Arts Theatre in 1936.

The plans for the renovation of the existing theatre are specifically designed to allow for the addition of the second space when the funds are available.

The planning for the capital redevelopment has been spearheaded by Cambridge Arts Theatre’s CEO, Dave Murphy, who said: “Thanks to this extraordinarily generous gift from the Gatsby Foundation, the theatre is now at the dawn of a new era.

“ I am very proud of the part I have played in formulating the plans for the new incarnation of the theatre and helping secure this transformational gift to enable the works to begin.

“On behalf of all of us at the venue, I want to thank the Gatsby Foundation for their generosity and belief in Cambridge Arts Theatre.”