Arcola Theatre to build giant tent to stage outdoor performances

Arcola Theatre

Arcola Theatre - Credit: Archant

The 90-seat Arcola Outside will bring Covid-safe community performances to Dalston during the pandemic

Design for Arcola Theatre outside

Design for Arcola Theatre outside - Credit: Archant

Arcola Theatre plans to build a 90-seat outdoor performance space and bar in Dalston to help it survive the coronovirus pandemic.

The theatre, which was awarded £296,000 from the government’s Culture Recovery Fund earlier this month, will task a team of technicians and stage designer Jon Bauser with constructing the new space near the current building in Ashwin Street.

A series of trial performances have been scheduled for December in the outdoor venue, which brings performance areas and bar under one giant weatherproof roof with socially distanced seating and plenty of airflow.

Bausor, designer of Bat Out Of Hell, The Grinning Man is prioritising both audience safety and environmental sustainability using reclaimed and recycled materials.

Arcola Theatre

Arcola Theatre - Credit: Archant

Dubbed Arcola Outside, the space will be the central hub for a Hackney-wide festival of outdoor performance, Today I’m Wiser, planned for 2021.

Inspired by the present and fuelled by a desire for change, the festival will reunite a wide range of artists with the community to celebrate creativity in a public space.

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Executive director Dr Ben Todd said the theatre’s survival had only been possible with support from individual donors, Arts Council England and the Culture Recovery Fund.

“Arcola was one of the first theatres to close in March, to avoid contributing to the spread of Covid-19,” he said. “By going outside, we are significantly reducing the risk of airborne transmission of the virus. By creating more space for social distancing, we are significantly reducing the risk of droplet transmission too. We will have rigorous Covid-security protocols, and will be working with expert partners including scientists and researchers to prepare for reopening our main building when it is safe and viable.”

Arcola co-founders Mehmet Ergen and Leyla Nazli said: “We are likely to be living with Covid-19 for some time, and it’s important that we find new and safe ways of working. Arcola Outside will enable us to welcome audiences back, and to create new opportunities for freelance artists who are such a vital part of our industry and society. This year has been the most challenging in Arcola’s 20-year history, but with our exciting plans for new shows, we are coming back from the brink.”

A fundraising campaign has been launched to complete the Arcola Outside project and stage productions next year find out more at

* A second tranche of Culture Recovery Fund awards has been announced with many arts organisations across Hackney and Islington benefitting from government grants of under £1million. They ranged from Hackney’s learning disabled theatre company Access All Areas to music venue The Shacklewell Arms, Islington’s Candid Arts and City Academy Arts, the Day-Mer Turkish Community Centre, Ikon Arts and Hoxton 177.

Hackney-based circus company Gandini Juggling and Hoxton’s National Centre For Circus Arts were also awarded funds to stay afloat during the pandemic.

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