Green light for new theatre and expanded Upper Street pub

The King's Head Theatre Bar and the entrance to Islington Square in Upper Street

The King's Head Theatre Bar and the entrance to Islington Square in Upper Street - Credit: André Langlois

An Upper Street theatre can move into a new home and a pub can expand after planning permission was granted.

The King’s Head Theatre helped launch the careers of Sir Tom Stoppard, Steven Berkoff and Alan Rickman, and its stage has been graced by stars including Maureen Lipman, Hugh Grant, Jennifer Saunders, Dawn French and Richard E Grant.

It has been granted permission to relocate a matter of yards into Islington Square shopping centre, with capacity increasing from 110 to 250.

The theatre was founded by Dan Crawford  in 1970 in an old boxing ring and pool hall at the back of the King’s Head pub, which will now expand into the vacated auditorium, with a new first-floor terrace built.

On July 19, Islington’s planning committee approved the application and listed building consent.

One resident wrote to the council with concerns about noise and disruption from the larger audience, while 13 others wrote in support.

The plan means pub owner Youngs can extend the dining area, with a flat roof terrace with space for 60 people.

The entrance (left) to what will be the new King's Head Theatre at Islington Square in Upper Street

The entrance (left) to what will be the new King's Head Theatre at Islington Square in Upper Street - Credit: André Langlois

A proposal to open a theatre in the shopping centre, a former postal sorting office, originally came before the council in 2018. The new plans see capacity reduced from 270 after dialogue with neighbours and planners.

James Seabright, the chair of the King’s Head Theatre Trust, said the new space includes more room in the foyer for people, following the pandemic.

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Cllr Benali Hamdache  (Green, Highbury) asked how the King’s Head will dissuade people from driving to the theatre “to minimise the impact on neighbours".

Mr Seabright said: “The Kings Head as a charity is committed to reducing our environmental impact and the way our audiences interact with us is a big part of that.”

He said audiences are encouraged to travel sustainably to the theatre, and that information is given out with tickets.

Cllr Tricia Clarke (Labour, Tufnell Park) wanted reassurance about the pub roof terrace, and about what would happen if there were complaints. Youngs said it will work to be “good neighbours”.

Cllr Paul Convery (Labour, Caledonian) said the King's Head will become one of the “landmark theatres” in central Islington, with Sadler’s Wells and the nearby Almeida.

“This is one of the crown jewels of Islington," he said.

The King's Head Theatre Bar in Upper Street

The King's Head Theatre Bar in Upper Street - Credit: André Langlois