Pioneering Islington theatre awarded £800,000 by the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund
The King’s Head Theatre has come one major step closer to entering a new phase in its remarkable life, thanks to an £800,000 grant from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund. The Islington theatre – renowned as a breeding ground for artistic innovation and adventure, and one of London’s best-loved LGBTQ+ venues – was one of 42 organisations to receive support from the fund, which aims to promote inclusive, community-based initiatives and has awarded a total of £23.7 million to projects across the capital.
Based above a pub since its doors opened in 1970, the King’s Head is planning to relocate – in what may be the shortest move in theatre history – from 115 Upper Street to a purpose-built space one door up the road. The funding boost means that the Theatre has now raised £2 million of the £3.5 million required to fit out its new home, which will include a 249-seat auditorium and an 85-seat studio, along with a bar and food area. The move will also create twenty-five new jobs, six of which will be reserved for local residents.
Today, a fresh drive begins to raise the remaining funds. The Next Stage is the public phase of the King’s Head’s campaign, seeking help from philanthropists of all means to ensure that the vision becomes a reality and the new venue opens in December, coinciding with the theatre’s 50th birthday.
Adam Spreadbury-Maher, the Theatre’s Artistic Director, said: “I am delighted by this incredible vote of confidence for the King’s Head Theatre from the Mayor of London. For 50 years, we’ve been an integral part of the Islington community, but have lacked the facilities to realise our full potential as a civic space. This crucial grant brings us much closer to turning our vision of a sustainable, community engaged and artistically excellent theatre fit for the 21st century into a reality. We are now calling for anyone, and everyone, to pledge whatever they can and to help secure our future.”
Chair of Trustees, James Seabright, said: “Following our incredibly successful 50th anniversary gala last month, it's a fantastic result for the King’s Head Theatre to have received this major grant, and a testament to the hard work of Adam Spreadbury-Maher and Fiona English, and their brilliant staff team. Thanks to them, and the wonderful support from our project partners Cain International and Young’s, the next 50 years now look even brighter and I look forward to seeing these exciting plans come to fruition.”
Since its earliest days, the King's Head has been a stepping stone in the careers of many of Britain’s most influential contemporary artists, feeding talent into the West End and beyond, with alumni including Joanna Lumley, Tom Stoppard, Hugh Grant, Dawn French, Steven Berkoff and Alan Rickman. The Theatre continues to build on that legacy, championing emerging artists, introducing new audiences to drama, opera and comedy, and creating a space where under-represented voices are given the chance to thrive, most notably in its popular Queer Season. Forthcoming production, No Strings Attached, is the debut play of exciting, emerging writer, Charles Entsie. The play, which won the theatre's Adrian Pagan Award for New Writing in 2019, opens in April this year and sheds light on the harsh reality of living life in the closet in working-class London.
Kaya Comer-Schwartz, Islington’s Executive Member for Children, Young People and Families said: ‘This is fantastic news for a much-loved Islington institution. The King’s Head Theatre has been a pioneering cultural hub on Upper Street for decades, and is a major contributor to Islington’s innovative 11 by 11 partnership, which pledges to ensure that all the borough’s school children have the opportunity to experience 11 outstanding cultural experiences by Year 11, whatever their background. In the context of a loss LGBTQ+ spaces in London, I am delighted that we are not only protecting this theatre but expanding it. Locations like this are vital for enhancing culture in Islington and help to celebrate our wonderfully diverse community, and it’s history.
Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, Jules Pipe, said: “The Mayor and I are committed to doing all we can to support projects which create opportunities to regenerate their local areas. This is a great example of how Londoners can take a lead in shaping the future of the capital.”
The 116 Upper Street venue will secure the King’s Head’s future as a place where artists feel free to push boundaries and allow the theatre to develop its pioneering training programmes, while deepening its ties with the local community.
A recent survey indicated that the theatre is seen as a vital space by Islington’s queer community and at the new venue there will be a renewed focus on outreach work, with 2,500 free tickets a year for isolated older people, and 500 opera tickets for local schools as part of Islington’s 11-by-11 partnership scheme. Through its innovative Opera Undone programme, the theatre has made its own unique and innovative mark on the genre; rejuvenating famous operas to be sung in English and reaching entirely new audiences. Updated, contemporary settings have also allowed for more inclusive, diverse and representative casts.
Notes to editors
The Good Growth Fund was launched in 2017 and delivered in partnership with the London Economic Action Partnership. The Fund seeks to make London fairer and more inclusive by strengthening local civic networks, encouraging innovation and nurturing great design. In total, it has supported 138 projects, allocating more than £75 million.