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King’s Head Theatre set to move to Upper Street bar for 18 months until new venue is ready

PUBLISHED: 15:57 20 April 2018 | UPDATED: 16:12 20 April 2018

The Kings Head Theatre is leaving the King's Head pub in Upper Street. Picture: Ewan Munro/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Kings Head Theatre is leaving the King's Head pub in Upper Street. Picture: Ewan Munro/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

Archant

Upper Street’s famous King’s Head Theatre pub could move into a “trendy neighbourhood bar” for more than 18 months until its new site is ready, a new report reveals.

An artist's impression of the new development, showing the theatre space in the foreground on the south of Islington Square. Picture: Islington Square/Redwood ConsultingAn artist's impression of the new development, showing the theatre space in the foreground on the south of Islington Square. Picture: Islington Square/Redwood Consulting

A planning application that would allow the theatre to continue its programme of shows in the nearby John Salt has been recommended for approval by Islington officers and will be voted on next week by councillors.

The King’s Head opened in 1970, becoming the first theatre pub in London since Shakespeare’s time, and helped to put Upper Street on the map.

It launched the careers of Alan Rickman, Joanna Lumley and Hugh Grant but has now outgrown its 110-seat capacity and is being moved into two underground floors of the new Islington Square development. But that can’t happen until it has raised enough money to pay for the fitting out of the new venue, which is currently in shell form.

Sager, the Islington Square developer, will pay for the auditorium and other works to be installed at John Salt – but the application has changed from a temporary use to a permanent one in case there are delays in moving into the new space.

A report states: “Although it is still the aim of the King’s Head Theatre Group (KHTG) and Islington Council to ensure the KHTG move into their new premises as soon as possible, this will be dependent on effective fundraising by the KHTG.

“Although the KHTG suggest they would hope that no more than 18 months would be spent in the John Salt, it was considered appropriate that the application be permanent to alleviate any risk of the new use exceeding the duration of the permission.”

When it does open, the new venue will consist of a 276-seat auditorium and an 84-seat studio. The original theatre will now form part of the pub, which will get a refurbishment and a new roof terrace.

Developers also want to demolish the old Grade-II listed dressing room at the back of the existing theatre and replace it with a courtyard for the new entrance.

Islington planning officers said in their report: “The fit-out is intended to create a highly contemporary, inclusive and sustainable theatre space.

“The proposal represents a radical departure from the current theatre and its size, flexibility and high quality facilities will, it is hoped, see the theatre forming a key cultural component and significant draw for the Islington Square development.”

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