In London, England, after 80 years of the space being closed to the public, Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust (APPCT) has now opened its doors on its newly-restored Theatre and East Court. The reopening follows the completion of a hugely ambitious, three-year East Wing Restoration Project designed by architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.
A marvel of Victorian engineering, it was home to some of the most advanced stage machinery and mechanics of the age, allowing performers to disappear, reappear and fly through the air.
From those grand beginnings, it went on to be used as a chapel during World War One, a cinema and the theatrical testing ground of stage icon Gracie Fields before being closed to the public and used as a BBC prop store and workshop.
Following a multi-million pound restoration project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and Haringey Council, Alexandra Palace Theatre has now reopened with a mixed programme of drama, music, comedy and family shows.
Alexandra Palace is surrounded by 196 acres of historic, Grade II listed parkland and offers unprecedented views of the city. The multi-award winning destination maintains its original enterprising spirit by hosting an eclectic mix of live music, sport, cultural and leisure events throughout the year.
APPCT is the body responsible for maintaining and repairing the charitable assets of Alexandra Park and Palace as a place of public resort and recreation, forever, by an Act of Parliament. The Charity aims to restore the iconic assets to create a successful and sustainable asset for all.
The East Wing’s reopening heralds a new chapter for Alexandra Palace, creating new ways for the public to interact with the building and its unique history. The East Court of the Palace, which was originally dubbed the “Cabinet of Curiosity”, will provide a new communal space for the Palace and its community; from the Creative Learning Zone to exhibitions and events, plus space to relax with a coffee and refreshments.
The East Wing Restoration Project received crucially-important funding from the National Lottery and from Haringey Council. The East Wing Restoration was a £27 million project, and the £18.8 million from the National Lottery grant was one of their largests-ever grants for a heritage project.
Louise Stewart, Chief Executive of APPCT, said, “This December, people from London and beyond will be able to explore this incredible space that has been hidden from the public. The Christmas Carnival is a great opportunity to celebrate the hard work that has gone into completing this immense project, but also give people a chance to experience the work of the Charity and our Creative Learning Programme. We would like to thank the HLF, Haringey Council and the countless individuals, trusts and businesses who have supported this project and helped make the reopening a reality.”
While the restoration project for the Alexandra Palace Theatre is completed, and both it and the East Court are now open to the public once again, work doesn’t stop here. A new café and Creative Learning Zone are to be constructed within the East Court to ensure the public can use the space throughout the day and around the year.
Alexandra Palace’s Creative Learning programme will be at the heart of the East Court and will be home to the new Creative Learning Zone. This brand new space will provide year-round events and activities that engage and inspire groups from across the city. The Creative Learning Zone and café will open in the Spring of 2019.
Alexandra Palace is a charitable trust, responsible for maintaining the iconic building and parkland. All activities and events go back into keeping the building open for all to enjoy and reviving more hidden spaces.
The East Court will also be a home to a new interactive installation that will tell the story of the Palace’s role in development of leisure and entertainment in Britain.
Stuart Hobley, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund, London concluded, “Alexandra Palace is one of North London’s best-loved landmarks and has played an era-defining role in popular culture, from the birth of television to the Pink Floyd-headlined 14 Hour Technicolour Dream. The beautifully-restored Theatre and East Court will build on this unique legacy.”
All photos are © Richard Battye Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios.