In the penultimate entry for our autumn blog series, Will Thomas from Marketing goes on a tour around the unseen parts of the building we call home.
Standing over 30 feet above the Butterworth Hall on a wire grid, through which I can see the floor below, I suddenly remember how much I really hate heights. My companion paces jauntily about, looking at bolts and girders whilst my tour guide Howard talks about how incredibly safe the grid is, allowing technicians to work with great freedom on the lights and sound equipment fixed above the hall. A new feature installed when the Hall was redeveloped in 2011, Howard says, the grid is completely safe to walk on, even if a wire were to snap. At this point, I make a sort of odd mumbling noise that I fully intended to be a coherent sentence, and am delighted to return down the ladders to the floor.
This moment is the theatrical finale to the building tours given by our Technical Director, Howard Potts. Howard is an enthusiastic guide, and whilst he won’t tell me exactly how long he’s worked at Warwick Arts Centre, he knows all of the building’s secrets. For a start, he says, it’s not really one building, but several fitted together over time. The Arts Centre’s original design included only the theatre, studio and the foyer area by the main entrance. Box Office lived in the corner where our Coull Quartet now rehearse, and the Le Gusta restaurant housed the bookshop. Later additions saw the cinema, hall, gallery and café all added in, whilst the outdoor area outside the cinema, still known as the ‘sculpture court’, moved inside. With the addition of the Helen Martin Studio and the total renovation of the Butterworth Hall, the building might be totally unrecognisable from the original were it not for its distinctive, angular shape.
Indeed, you never turn a corner at Warwick Arts Centre – you turn several. The angles of the building lead us through the workshop, where visiting artists and students build sets and paint backcloths for scenery, into the theatre, where the rake of the seats changes subtly as the rows go back to make sure that audiences get a good view from wherever they sit in our amphitheatre. In some ways, we’re all about angles – the building, our logo, the look of our latest brochure. It makes sense too – we present contemporary work that’s always on the leading edge, but we’re also a cosy corner. We’re a safe place to try something out – not just brave new shows like Noodles but also the very best exemplars of crafts perfected over centuries, like the Academy of Ancient Music. This building is like our home, and we want you to pop round for tea. And in our last blog of this series on Friday, our Head of Audiences Matt will tell you why.
You can have a glimpse backstage too in this video made by Adam Cardew from our technical team!