A LEADING Suffolk theatre has received a welcome windfall from The Arts Council to help make its backstage area more accessible and comfortable for performers.

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The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich has been awarded £420,000 by The Arts Council to allow it to improve facilities backstage which haven’t had any major refurbishment work since the theatre opened in 1979.

Remodelling work will change the layout of the backstage area to accommodate a lift, a technical teaching workshop, increase space for office accommodation, enhancing control of heating and an upgrade of the washroom facilities. The new space will also help production work such as prop making.

Sarah Holmes, the New Wolsey’s chief executive, said the work will allow visiting actors, students and staff increased accessibility and learning opportunities.

“Our aim has always been to create a theatre that is welcoming, inclusive and open to all sections of the community and to create educational opportunities for learners.

“This small capital grant will enable the theatre to be fully accessible, fit for purpose in the 21st Century. This is the last strand of our building work that will see a small change in terms of physical improvements with a huge impact on artists and visitor experiences, our ability to conduct leading industry training and to continue to be the Most Welcoming Theatre.”

The New Wolsey has a long track record of championing disabled-led theatre. It has developed a strong collaborative relationship with Graeae, co-producing Flower Girls (October 2007), Whiter Than Snow (March 2009) and Reasons to be Cheerful (October 2010 & Spring 2012).

She said disabled access had been a significant challenge throughout these collaborations.

Helen Lax, regional director, Arts Council, East, said: “We are delighted that the New Wolsey Theatre have been successful in their application.

“The New Wolsey is a leading light for diversity and with these changes it will ensure they are able to provide good facilities for disabled artists and companies.”

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