Stage is set for Sheffield theatre’s revival

Andi Stamp outside the Merlin Theatre, Nether Edge, Sheffield
Andi Stamp outside the Merlin Theatre, Nether Edge, Sheffield
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An opening date has been set at a community theatre completely refurbished after it was devastated by flooding - and all that is left to fundraise for is the seats.

The Merlin Theatre in Nether Edge suffered major damage four years ago when a water tank burst, releasing a deluge of water which gutted the building.

The venue was forced to close while funds were gathered to repair the heating, lighting and electrics, as well as other fixtures and fittings.

Now the £1.2 million renovation is complete, and a final charity push has been launched to collect £30,000 for the auditorium’s seats.

Freeman College and Brantwood Specialist School - run by the theatre’s owners, the Ruskin Mill Trust - have already started using the venue for music and drama productions, and community bookings are being taken, but the official opening date will be next April, coinciding with celebrations to mark 400 years since Shakespeare’s birth.

Fundraiser Andi Stamp said the theatre ‘looks absolutely brilliant’ and that the revamp meant it was ‘made for the 21st century’, but added: “Even though we raised £1.2 million to do it up, there is still quite a lot of work to do. We need 200 seats. Theatre seats are quite expensive, they have to be made specially, they have to fit and have a good arc.”

Andi added: “It’s like a brand new theatre, it’s lovely.”

The ambition is for a wider range of groups to use the venue, attracted by the updated facilities.

“We’ve already got a mailing list of almost 1,000 people and up to 300 enquiries from people who want to make a booking,” said Andi.

“It used to be incredibly popular, people will have got so many memories of it. We’re thinking of doing a local history project with Sheffield Theatres.”

The 2011 flood was triggered by frost which caused a burst in the Merlin’s water tanks, located at the top of the building.

Set in the grounds of Tintagel House, near Kenwood Hall hotel, the complex also offers the Arnold Freeman Hall, 10 large workshop spaces and an art studio. The Merlin opened in 1969 and became renowned for its work with participatory theatre.

n Visit to donate towards the seating.