Lynda Winstanley on the future of the Darlington Civic

Lynda Winstanley on the future of the Darlington Civic

Monday, 23 March 2015

by Rebecca Parkinson

Following its successful restoration bid, what can audiences expect from the Darlington Civic Theatre in the future? Young reporter Rebecca Parker interviews Theatre Director, Lynda Winstanley.

Darlington Civic Theatre is currently developing plans to refurbish its Grade II listed home by reseating the auditorium, changing the stage and adding a lift so people with access needs will have the ability to move around the entire theatre. Two shops have also been bought and will be demolished to extend the footprint of the theatre. Lynda Winstanley, the director of the Civic Theatre, is responsible for leading the staff at the theatre as well as being the head of the organisation that the theatre has.

"The reason we wanted to refurbish the theatre rather than just tweak it was that the theatre is not much different to how it was when it first opened. The facilities are not suited for modern theatre operation and do not match how audiences expect to engage with the theatre." 

"The aim of the restoration is to preserve and enhance the heritage of the theatre and try to return the theatre to its former glory. We also want to improve the experience for audiences and visiting theatre companies."
Lynda Winstanley, Theatre Director

As the Civic Theatre is a central building in Darlington, the restoration will have several effects on the town. Located on the main road leading into the town, the restored building will help regenerate the area alongside the new complex which is currently being built just down the road from it. There will also be an adjacent young people's theatre which will help increase the cultural life in Darlington. 

Once the theatre has been refurbished, an education centre will be created which will allow the successful theatre and dance company to operate at the theatre, who currently run at a local school due to there not being enough room at the theatre itself.

Opened in 1907, the theatre is an iconic building within the town as it is one of the only historic operating theatres that remain in the UK and still has the original design of the theatre.

"The whole point of everything we do is to be in direct contact with the story of the theatre every day, from how it was built to the first director Signor Reno Pepi. It has a certain ambience that we don't want to lose."


"When the theatre was first built there were over 1000 theatres in the UK. However not long after over 800 of them were lost. As there aren't many working historic theatres left, it is a big responsibility to ensure the theatre is restored for future generations."
Lynda Winstanley, Theatre Director

The restoration of the theatre will begin when a Stage Two pass has been awarded and the funding can be received. It is expected to last 12 months or more and the theatre will be closed during this time due to the radical nature of the refurbishments.