Revamp costing millions on the way for Sheffield’s Montgomery theatre

A community theatre in Sheffield city centre is to undergo a major multi-million-pound refurbishment with the aim of bringing the venue ‘firmly into the 21st century’.

The Montgomery – a 420-seat space used by drama companies for generations – is to get a new frontage on Surrey Street, as well as a revamped front of house, main auditorium and backstage facilities.

The Montgomery Hall on Surrey Street, Sheffield.

The Montgomery Hall on Surrey Street, Sheffield.

An affordable recording studio, an improved bar, a lift, better toilets and spruced-up public areas are also envisaged as part of a plan to create a place that is ‘buzzing and completely full every day’.

But funding is needed to pay for the project, which bosses hope will be complete by 2023. 

Much of the money would come from national arts bodies and other funders, it is anticipated, but organisations and theatre groups who regularly use the complex will also be called on to donate.

A feasibility study is to be drawn up and a full year of fundraising will be needed before work can begin – hence the five-year timescale.

A group of children at a drama club at The Montgomery.

A group of children at a drama club at The Montgomery.

The Montgomery Hall building was originally created for the Sheffield Sunday School Union and opened in 1886. Named after hymn-writer and poet James Montgomery, one of the union’s founders, it survived both the Blitz and a devastating 1971 fire to become the home of amateur and youth productions, dance classes and more.

The venue – known as ‘The Monty’ – is now owned by the Montgomery Arts and Christian Centre Sheffield Ltd, a non-profit making company. It describes itself as the only centre for the arts in Sheffield that has a specific focus on programming for young audiences between the ages of five and 16.

Managing director Dawn Reynolds said the ‘ambitious’ overhaul was ‘long overdue’. 

“What we want is for the community companies to see The Monty as their theatre and their arts centre, somewhere that can be called home and can be built on and developed together,” said Dawn.

A drawing of the Montgomery Hall, printed in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent in 1884.

A drawing of the Montgomery Hall, printed in the Sheffield and Rotherham Independent in 1884.

“I want to see this building buzzing, completely full every day with people from all parts of the Sheffield community. Sheffield needs a great central community facility and that’s what The Monty already is, it’s what makes us unique.”

The feasibility study should be ready for consultation by next year. Groups who use the space will be asked for their views, said Dawn.

“We can’t really begin to think about making any of this a reality with knowing we have the support of the people of Sheffield. I look forward to embarking on this exciting new phase in The Monty’s life and hope that our many friends will want to join us and support us.”

A five-year business plan has already been approved by The Montgomery’s trustees. In 2017 sponsors each offered £65 to reupholster 100 seats.

Old England, performed by Firth Brown and Firth Vickers Operatic Society at the Montgomery Hall.

Old England, performed by Firth Brown and Firth Vickers Operatic Society at the Montgomery Hall.

The venue’s gallery space is used to exhibit works by local community artists and there is also a creative resource library, which includes reminiscence boxes for care homes, day centres and lunch clubs. The installation of a lift would solve long-standing problems with disabled access, enabling the theatre to offer more relaxed performances for people with autism, and dementia-friendly workshops.

Visit www.themontgomery.org.uk to find out more.

Old England, performed by Firth Brown and Firth Vickers Operatic Society, Montgomery Hall.

Old England, performed by Firth Brown and Firth Vickers Operatic Society, Montgomery Hall.

Damage to the interior of the Montgomery Hall, Sheffield, caused by the fire on May 4, 1971.

Damage to the interior of the Montgomery Hall, Sheffield, caused by the fire on May 4, 1971.