Chichester Festival Theatre set for new third peformance space

The Nest at Chichester Festival Theatre - artist's impression - Hayes Davidson for Reed WattsThe Nest at Chichester Festival Theatre - artist's impression - Hayes Davidson for Reed Watts
The Nest at Chichester Festival Theatre - artist's impression - Hayes Davidson for Reed Watts
Chichester Festival Theatre is set to gain a third performance space after winning planning permission for its proposed new venue The Nest.

With permission granted, the CFT will launch a new 120-seat studio theatre created to be a “vibrant hub for talent development and innovative and community performances.”

It will hark back to the days at the CFT of The Tent, Theatre on the Fly and The Spiegeltent, places where the venue could “do something a little bit different to our usual programming.” “With an increasingly urgent need for more space to develop creative projects and support emerging artists, we are planning a new venue to do just that”, the theatre confirmed.

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Designed to complement Chichester Festival Theatre’s existing spaces and sited between the Festival Theatre and Northgate car park, The Nest will offer to support artists and technicians at the beginning of their careers, including local writers and performers, and offer entertainment for a younger audience. It will also provide a space for CFT’s ever-increasing community programme, such as work with vulnerable adults, the Technical Youth Theatre, and early years (ages 0-3) activities.

Justin Audibert and Kathy Bourne, artistic and executive directors of Chichester Festival Theatre, said: ‘We’re thrilled that Chichester District Council have endorsed our plans for The Nest, which is designed to help grow emerging talent while providing much needed support for community groups and initiatives, and a real opportunity to enhance Chichester’s night life. The core of the new building will be an existing temporary structure, previously located in London and Edinburgh. By reusing an existing building, sustainability is at the proposal’s heart.”

The planning approval marks a significant milestone in the project, with fundraising efforts underway. Sarah Mansell, appeal director, explained: “We know audiences and visitors have a real appetite for smaller, more informal theatre spaces such as our previous venues The Tent, Theatre on the Fly and The Spiegeltent. We have an ambitious fundraising goal of at least £1.5 million to ensure The Nest meets the highest standards of excellence and accessibility, and are very grateful to all those who have donated so far. Please join them if you can!’

Sam Mendes, the director of Hollywood blockbusters such as 1917 and Skyfall, who began his career at Chichester, is a patron of the appeal, saying: “Nurturing the next generation of artists is vital to ensure that theatre in the UK maintains its international reputation for excellence. I am delighted to support Chichester Festival Theatre – a place dear to my heart – as they embark on creating this exciting new space. I cannot wait to see the work that is incubated in The Nest!”

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For more details on the plans for The Nest and how to donate, visit https://www.cft.org.uk/support-us/the-nest-appeal

It is all about incubating, hatching and showcasing the creative talent of the future, with sustainability at its heart, based around an ideal structure previously located at the Pleasance Theatre in London and used at the Edinburgh Festival. Usable year-round and fully wheelchair accessible, the 119-seater studio will have a thrust stage to match the CFT’s sister theatres and removable stacked seating to give plenty of flexibility.

If you'd like to discuss supporting this project or learn more about it, the theatre would love to hear from you. Call 01243 212869 to chat to a member of the team.

Dame Patricia Routledge, president of the Nest Appeal, added: “For us to create The Nest and have it ready for 2025, we need to raise at least £1.5million by the end of March 2025. We’ve set aside £250,000 from our own reserves to kickstart the fundraising appeal – now we need your help!”

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