Stepnell to stage RSC Costume Workshop's major redevelopment

Stepnell has been chosen by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) for a multi-million-pound contract to restore and redevelop its Costume Workshop in Waterside, Stratford-upon-Avon.

Home to the theatre’s award-winning costume-makers since the 1950s, the workshop is in urgent need of repair.

Work began this month (February) on the project which will conserve the 19th century Grade 2 listed buildings, create updated facilities and enable it to open for the first time to visitors through site tours.

The redevelopment will create 1,644 sq m of modern workshop accommodation, mainly over two storeys, to create enhanced facilities for what is the largest in-house costume-making department of any British theatre with an extensive range of facilities. It is one of the few theatres to have an in-house armoury where armour and weapons are made as well as workshops where experts craftspeople make everything from hats, corsets and leatherwork to jewellery and masks.

Designed by architects practice Aedas, the redevelopment will also create a new entrance to the RSC offices and Costume Workshop using the 1887 former scene dock doors which were built for the original Shakespeare Memorial Theatre.

The transformed workshops will feature extended workspace for the costume team; an improved stock room; larger premises for the millinery, jewellery and dyeing and print workshops; new office space; a larger fitting room; a new lift and a new plantroom in the roofspace. The project will also create a versatile new space within the workshop area.

Stephen Rebbeck, RSC technical director, says: “Our costumes are essential for us to create theatre at its best, made in Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon and shared around the world – so we are looking forward to working with Stepnell on the restoration and redevelopment of our Costume Workshop. The project will help us create the best facilities for costume-making fit for the 21st century, as well as offer new training and apprenticeship opportunities and allow visitors to experience our world-class costume workshop for themselves.”

Stepnell operations manager Paul Fish says: “We are extremely proud to be working on this landmark project for the RSC, helping create modern facilities for the theatre’s dedicated and highly skilled costume makers. We are absolutely delighted to bring our own team’s expertise in working on conservation programmes and historic buildings to this exciting project which will transform and expand the workshop accommodation enabling the costume team to continue to produce the award-winning creations which make such an essential contribution to the success of RSC productions.”

The multi-million pound project to restore and redevelop the costume workshop is going ahead with support using public funding by the National Lottery through Arts Council England, the Heritage Lottery Fund, and The Government’s Local Growth Fund through the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, with additional support from the Garfield Weston Foundation, Lydia and Manfred Gorvy, The Foyle Foundation, The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation and other generous supporters.

Find out more about the RSC’s Stitch in Time fundraising appeal here.

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