Big House Theatre care leaver charity set to move into dilapidated workshop off Essex Road

A Big House Theatre production. Picture: Dylan Nolte

A Big House Theatre production. Picture: Dylan Nolte - Credit: Archant

A dilapidated workshop off Essex Road will be transformed into a theatre space and headquarters for a charity supporting care leavers.

The Big House Theatre Company in Newington Green is set to move one mile away into the former mirror-making factory in Englefield Road, which has been lying empty for more than 10 years.

Along with its own theatre, it will contain a common room where psychotherapy and wellbeing classes would be held, offices for the charity and separate offices to be rented out.

Councillors signed off the plans at a town hall meeting on Tuesday. Chief exec of the charity Maggie Norris told the Gazette she was delighted at the decision and said the charity had looked at some 60 buildings in the last two years.

“It’s great news. Home is a very emotional issue for the youngsters we work with and the identity of that is terribly important. We are planning to create a first class youth facility providing jobs, volunteering and mentoring opportunities.

“It means we will be able to reach hundreds more vulnerable people, we’ve absolutely reached capacity.”

The Big House works with care leavers at risk of social exclusion and gives them a platform to work in the theatre industry with the aim of inspiring them and instilling confidence.

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One user described the work they do by saying: “The Big House is a place for people who have nowhere to go and who feel they don’t belong. It’s like a family.

“It allows us to show the world we’re not just kids from care, that we have feelings and dreams like everyone else.”

Five neighbours moaned the arrival of the charity would cause noise disturbance as well as “increased crime and antisocial behaviour,” but planners recommended it for approval.

In a report published ahead of the meeting, officers said: “The benefits, including the use of a vacant site and, in particular, the community benefits, have been considered, along with the shortcomings of the proposed development, which include some neighbour amenity impacts. The positive aspects significantly outweigh the disbenefits.”

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