Chichester Festival Theatre could be rehoused in a tent

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Chichester Festival Theatre could find itself being housed in a tent for the 2014 or 2015 summer season as a result of major renewal works costing up to £20m, which are being released today for public consultation.

The CFT will spend the rest of the summer seeking the views of its audiences on a raft of works – costing between £15m and £20m – aimed at safeguarding the future of a rapidly ageing building.

All the plans – including a backstage extension and the creation of a piazza feel between the main theatre and the Minerva – are subject to modification and may yet be scaled down.

But if they go ahead in their current form and then go on to secure planning permission and funding, it looks likely the theatre’s main-house will move either to a temporary marquee or temporarily into another building in the city.

Alan Finch, CFT executive director, said: “If we go with the project that we are going out to consultation on, it would mean that one festival – either 2014 or 2015 – would end up in a temporary home.

“We decided that as the custodians of the 50th anniversary of the theatre next year, we should be trying to make sure this organisation still exists in 50 years’ time. The building will not survive as it is now.

“We have debated a lot about how to celebrate the 50th anniversary. We believe the best way is to try to ensure the theatre will still be here in another 50 years.”

Mr Finch stressed it was not about making the theatre bigger and better: it was about making its buildings fit for purpose.

“The costs are going to be between £15m and £20m on the scheme we are going to consult the public about. How to fund it is yet to be dealt with. We hope to talk to the Arts Council.

“The Arts Council don’t have a capital scheme at the moment, but they have announced the intention to create a capital scheme focusing on protecting culturally-important buildings.”

The CFT may also look to lottery funding and a public appeal.

It is anticipated the Minerva studio theatre would remain unaffected by any closure. If a smaller plan goes through, the closure would be correspondingly scaled down, perhaps involving the loss of a winter season.