National Youth Theatre

The National Youth Theatre is a vital part of Great Britain’s cultural infrastructure, boasting alumni of the likes of Daniel Craig, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Rosamund Pike.

Since 1987, the cultural impact of the National Youth Theatre (NYT) has continued to grow across the country, the capital and locally in Islington, where its well-used home on Holloway Road is based. 

DSDHA won the commission to work with the NYT through a competition, proposing a radical redevelopment that will enable the organisation to hugely increase its capacity to provide free and affordable opportunities through its award-winning social inclusion programmes that champion diversity and creativity. 

This project sees major internal reorganisation, the creation of additional rehearsal spaces and a new theatre, and a consolidated working environment to accommodate all staff in the same building. It provides the necessary space to create an environmentally and financially sustainable future for the NYT that meets the ambition of all its users. 

A new way in
The Green Room is a simple addition, which not only provides a new front door and visible shopfront, but also additional community studio space – an informal new hub for the NYT's celebrated Playing Up and Start Up Saturday’s programmes, strengthening a partnership with City and Islington College. 

This welcoming pavilion and the improved public realm bring the NYT out into the forecourt, better integrating the institution into the street, as well as revealing the backstage activities that are a fundamental part of the NYT’s working life. The pavilion is designed to changes over time – both day-to-day and seasonally – from a space for teaching, to a venue for performance, and even to a hub for community events. 

Preserving the spirit of the old
A history of use and previous performances is embedded in the fabric of the existing building – intrinsic qualities that we hold affection for and do not want to lose. Relocation of staff offices and elegant structural alterations to the existing workshops will create brand new, naturally-lit, flexible theatre spaces for new productions by young people, for young people, alongside studios and workshops for both NYT and commercial hire, allowing West End stars to rub shoulders with today’s aspiring performers. 

This increased capacity allows an expansion of the existing symbiotic relationship that the NYT has with the West End that was identified as a crucial network during the development of DSDHA’s initial feasibility study. The NYT allows West End productions to rent space for rehearsals and in return uses their theatres for performances.

A local and global community asset   
The NYT is recognised as a huge community asset in Islington and has promoted a sense of belonging to the many participants who have accessed its Youth Arts programmes over the last sixty years. This project will provide the NYT with the ability to function as a vibrant production house for work by and for young people, bringing together the scope and scale of facilities that are unprecedented in London or beyond. 

As well as being an appealing landmark, the project goes further to maximise public benefit by tapping into the NYT’s local, national and international networks to help the organisation promote future partnerships – connecting the world of learning with the world of work, and culture with community, embedding it further within London’s good growth. 

Future plans for a new pocket park, working in collaboration with the London Borough of Islington and the GLA, will bring much needed local and environmental benefits.

The project has received the largest funding grant of £2M from the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund and building work for the £4.45M redevelopment commences in 2020, with the opening planned for Summer 2021.

Team:
Architect and Landscape Architect: DSDHA
Structural Engineer: Akera Engineers
M+E Engineer: cc|be
Planning Consultant: Gerald Eve
Quantity Surveyor: Gardiner and Theobald
Contractor: Neilcott
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