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Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans, bright future

David Wilmore appointed Globe Theatre restoration consultant

Thursday, January 19, 2012

One of the country's leading theatre restoration experts has been appointed as restoration consultant for the iconic Globe Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees. 

David Wilmore, of Theatresearch historic theatre consultants, has just finished working on the restoration of the Theatre Royal, Newcastle upon Tyne, and also lists the City Varieties Music Hall in Leeds and the Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond amongst his credits.

The Globe is a very prominent Grade II listed Art Deco building on Stockton High Street. Built in 1935, it hosted many top names in the music business until the 1970s, famously including a performance by The Beatles on the night President Kennedy was assassinated. It finally closed in the 1990s after nearly two decades as a bingo hall, since when it has remained empty.

More recently, Stockton-based Jomast Developments Ltd acquired the property and last year announced plans for a £4 million restoration, with the support of Stockton Borough Council, as a venue for music, comedy and other events.

Since then, Jomast has been busy carrying out behind the scenes planning, design and preparation work. The company has made the building watertight below the stage, completed the removal of asbestos and stripped out around 100 skiploads of debris ranging from bingo tables to 1970s tiling and old carpets.

This has enabled a more thorough survey of the building to establish a more precise programme of works and Jomast expects more visible signs of the restoration to begin soon.

Dr Wilmore, who has a PhD in Drama, recently edited a book on the life of Britain's greatest theatre architect, Frank Matcham.

After studying at the University of Newcastle, he became involved with the restoration of the Tyne Theatre and Opera House in the city. When the theatre burnt down on Christmas Day 1985 he formed Theatresearch, a consultancy specialising in the restoration of historic theatres.

Since then he has been involved in many projects, including the historic stage machinery for Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera.

He said today: "I am relishing the opportunity to once more work in the North-East. The Globe is a real 'Sleeping Beauty' and its restoration provides a great opportunity to bring this beautiful art deco building back to use.

"Both Jomast, the owners, and Stockton Borough Council have made a significant commitment in re-awakening the theatre, which has an important part to play in regenerating Stockton town centre.

"Whilst I've been involved in restoring some very old theatres, I do have a great interest in those built in the 20th century and recently completed a very similar project to the Globe - the Plaza in Stockport which is also a very wonderful Art Deco grade II listed theatre.

"When Newcastle architect Percy L. Browne designed the Globe in 1935, Great Britain boasted a wealth of more than 1,200 theatres scattered throughout the country. Today less than 120 remain, of which the Globe is one.

"Its Art Deco architecture creates a wonderful magical theatrical atmosphere and we will be working closely with Stockton Council's conservation officer, English Heritage and The Theatres Trust to reinstate this sensational auditorium.

"This project is a bold and imaginative collaboration by Jomast and Stockton Council. The reopening of this building will re-invigorate Stockton during the day and create an exciting and visual impact to the streetscape at night.

"Theatresearch recently re-discovered the original architect's drawings in the Teesside archives and these are greatly enhancing our understanding of how he intended his building to appear and, more importantly, be enjoyed.

"A wonderful theatre in an important town provides a real sense of identity. The Council has recognised the role this kind of building can play in urban regeneration, job creation and a sense of community - in such difficult times, this is truly visionary."