Back to the future

The project to restore our building and fill it with people and creativity began around 10 years ago when the private enterprise of the Charles Higgins Partnership saved the building from dereliction. In partnership with the local community, the company turned the theatre section over to us, the Shelley Theatre Trust for £1 a year. We’ve been up and running full time as a programmed creative venue for nearly three years. 

When we first opened the doors, we were still missing walls, doors, toilets and a bar. The theatre was a bare stage and a few lights but 160 very comfy ex cinema seats! However the audiences arrived and the volunteers kept turning up to keep the place running!

Flash forward a few years and with the generous support of some 60 volunteers, a board of trustees, other local venues and business and a small team of staff, we now have the venue programmed with theatre, film, dance, live music and events for almost 50% of the year. Somehow we’ve created a fully functional stage area, bar and box office. We’ve been able to increase customer comfort with some extra heating and new loos along the way too!

We have a plan in place for the next 5 to 10 years that we hope will allow us to achieve our missions of completing the building restoration project and to fulfil the organisations artistic objectives. Here are a few of the highlights.

Theatre space

Shelley Theatre Wings 

We would like to finish the theatre space with the latest production technologies on stage alongside retractable seating in the auditorium. We’d like to achieve this with modern venue needs in mind whilst remaining sympathetic to the heritage needs of this celebrated space.

Studio space

The Sudio

Our studio upstairs could become an amazing, adaptable space for the local community. Another original heritage space, it could host anything from performances to wedding receptions and all things in-between.  At present the space is unheated, needs much specialist restoration work and can only be accessed by stairs. 

The Mulberry Room

The Mulberry Room

Sometimes known as the big empty space you see as you walk in through the box office! Donated to us by the building developers and named after the historic mulberry tree just outside, this space will eventually become a restaurant and café space. Not tied to our theatre space performance programme, everybody will be able to come and enjoy food, drink and maybe some entertainment here in the day or evening, seven days a week. On a sunny day the windows and doors will open up onto a veranda into the park. And most importantly, all the profits from this operation will go directly back into the Shelley Theatre Trusts work. However, we do not as yet have the funds or a partner to realise this. In the short term, pending a resurfacing of the floor, it is possible we may convert this area into a temporary studio space in order to bring in some extra daytime income and offer visiting artists some alternative options.

The basement

The basement

The basement is split into two areas. The old basement under the stage will contain artists changing rooms, toilets and a Green Room. We do not have funds or plans for this stage yet. The build new basement area will contain the bulk of our customer toilets to finish of our public toilet plan for the building. We have approximately half of the funding we require for this phase.

The bar

The Shelley Theatre bar

We don’t do things by half measures in our bar! We only serve the best beers, ciders and carefully selected wines but try and keep the prices sensible. We’re developing the kitchen behind the bar as we look at ways of developing the Mulberry Room space.


Think you could help us meet this vision? Take a look at our volunteers page for more information.