VIDEO: Sheffield theatre’s new studio space aimed at family shows

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Once it was Tuckwood’s restaurant and now it is helping to feed Sheffield’s taste for theatre and the arts.

The Montgomery in Sheffield city centre, long a favourite venue for amateur theatre and dance productions, has launched a new studio space in the former restaurant on Surrey Street that was once a city institution. It was most recently the London Club restaurant which closed last year.

Appropriately for a venue that intends to host family productions, the studio’s first show last week was a performance of Brothers Grimm by Babbling Vagabonds for Rowan Special School.

The venue’s creative and performing arts manager, Julie Fancher, said: “We want to explore building what is a great family experience, not just kids’ shows that mum and dad come along to but shows that the whole family can engage in.”

Julie wants to put on small-scale touring work in the studio space, which seats about 70 people and now has a dance floor.

Next door is an annexe that can be split in two with sliding doors and used for performances, workshops, rehearsals and meetings or as the backstage area for the studio.

Julie said: “Because we have the Crucible round the corner, and we have a great relationship with them, we want people to have a unique experience that is different from what’s happening there. For us this is quite an exciting adventure in audience development.”

The Montgomery is hosting 11 productions at Sheffield Children’s Festival, which runs until Saturday (July 6) and is taking part in a national Family Arts Festival this autumn.

It is also introducing Family Fun Fridays, which are shows starting at 4.30pm with a chance to grab a bite to eat as well.

Two of these shows in the autumn are The Quangle Wangle’s Hat and other tales by Edward Lear, a performance workshop adventure with Griffin Theatre Arts on Thursday October 17 and Friday 18, and Clydebuilt Puppet Theatre’s Peter and the Wolf on October 25.

Julie said: “We’re just looking at how we can programme the studio. Until it was finished we couldn’t fully envision how it would work.”

Carney Academy, who offer training in all aspects of drama, will launch their summer school in the venue this August and begin regular classes from September.

The main theatre auditorium, which lies a floor and a half above the new studio, seats 420 and continues to be a favourite venue for amateur theatre and dance school shows.

The Montgomery is part of Montgomery Arts and Christian Centre Sheffield and is also home to a resource centre providing discounted supplies to more than 100 faith partners in the city. The core funding for the venue comes from rents from the shops below that the charity also owns.

Originally The Montgomery, built in 1886, housed the Sheffield Sunday Schools Union meeting hall. The studio space was then the lower hall.

Julie said that the ethos of the charity was always to respond to the needs of the community, from the time when child labour laws were brought in to give poor children a chance of an education.

She sees its support for family arts as a response to new community needs today.

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