Curtain rises on revival at Sheffield’s Merlin Theatre

Work on The Merlin Theatre in Sheffield is nearing completion after a �1.1 million refurbishment after the building was badly damaged by floods. Pictured is Andi Stamp.
Work on The Merlin Theatre in Sheffield is nearing completion after a �1.1 million refurbishment after the building was badly damaged by floods. Pictured is Andi Stamp.
  • Venue was forced to close after being ruined by flooding in 2011
  • The renovation bill has cost £1.1 million, with £200,000 left to find
  • A crowdfunding appeal has been launched to raise the remaining funds
  • The theatre is due to reopen this autumn
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A community theatre left devastated by flooding is poised to reopen following a £1 million refurbishment.

The Merlin Theatre, in Nether Edge, suffered major damage four years ago when a water tank burst, releasing a deluge of water which gutted the building.

It’s a much-loved community resource with a national reputation

Andi Stamp, fundraiser at Freeman College and Brantwood Specialist School

The theatre was forced to close while funds were gathered to repair the heating, lighting and electrics, as well as other fixtures and fittings.

Now the venue’s bosses have announced it is set to reopen in autumn, and a ‘crowdfunding’ appeal has been launched to raise the remaining money, which will pay for new seating in the auditorium as well as other renovations.

Fundraiser Andi Stamp said the campaign had been met with an ‘incredible response’ so far.

The venue is run by Freeman College and Brantwood Specialist School, which cater for young people with learning disabilities. It is also available for hire by drama, dance and music groups in Sheffield.

Set in the grounds of Tintagel House, near Kenwood Hall hotel, the complex also offers the Arnold Freeman Hall, 10 large workshop spaces and an art studio, alongside the 200-seat theatre.

“It’s a much-loved community resource with a national reputation,” said Andi.

“Drama, theatre and music is a very important part of our curriculum for developing children’s confidence and self-esteem. People in the local community used to book it as a venue as well.”

Andi said the 2011 flood was triggered by frost which caused a burst in the Merlin’s water tanks, located at the top of the building.

“Water flooded all the way down into the theatre,” he added. “It damaged all of the heating, lighting and electrics, and there were bits of the roof left hanging down. Obviously with us working with children it wasn’t safe. People were pretty gutted about it.”

Fully renovating the Merlin has cost £1.1 million. Support from the Education Funding Agency, and the Garfield Weston and Foyle Foundations has provided much of the money, leaving around £200,000 left to raise.

“The crowdfunding appeal enables everybody to join in,” Andi said.

Special gifts are on offer for donors depending on how much money they give. People who donate £10 or more will receive a special pewter brooch, while a pledge of £1,000 means the donor’s name will be inscribed on the theatre’s sponsors board.

An open event to discuss the plans takes place at 6.30pm at Brantwood School on April 22. Email andi.stamp@rmt.org or visit Merlin Theatre for details.

A Theatre with History

Tintagel House was built in the 1850s, and during the 1920s and 30s was the base of Wilfred Stephenson, who promoted classical concerts across Britain and brought cultural figures to the house such as Anna Pavlova and Sir Henry Wood. In 1961 the building was bought by Christopher Boulton, who used it as a centre for accessible education and theatre. The Merlin Theatre opened in the grounds in 1969. Over the decades it became renowned for its work with participatory theatre, as well as providing the venue for the Lindsay Quartet, which started the Sheffield in the Round chamber music festival.