A brief history of the Loft Theatre Company
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It was on the evening of Friday 5 May 1922 when Mr and Mrs W A Constable convened a meeting of 18 people at their home in Woodcote Road, Warwick. Their purpose was the founding of a club, to be named ‘The Warwick and Leamington Dramatic Study Club’, for the study of drama and the reading and performing of plays.
At that time, of course, the club did not have its own premises and performances were at various locations including Leamington College, the Town Hall and Jephson Gardens Pavilion.
It wasn’t until 1932 that the club found its own premises, an old barn in Bedford Street. Formerly used by Andrews the furniture makers and known as Andrews Yard, the barn was rented and the club set about making it suitable for performances. The building was accessed via a rickety staircase and resembled a loft hence the club became known affectionately as ‘The Loft’.
The Warwick and Leamington Dramatic Study Club performed in Bedford Street for nine years.
The club was evicted in 1941 as the building was to be closed and demolished. Once again without premises, perfomances continued in other locations, again including the Town Hall, Jephson Gardens Pavilion and Church Halls in the area.
In 1943 the club identified a new potential building, the Colonnade Theatre, which was on the site of the current Loft Theatre. This building had a fascinating history: it was built in 1870 as the Victorian Grand Pavilion, was used as a riding school, then for live circus performances, a picture house (in the silent movie days), a retail store and even a skating rink. The Second World War halted plans for a while but the premises were eventually acquired in 1945.
Members undertook the refurbishment work and the Loft once again had its own theatre for performances.
Improvements were made during the 1940s, including the purchase of upholstered tip-up seating, and a fully raked floor was constructed to improve viewing for the growing audiences.
Refurbishment completed, this was to be the home of the club for the next thirteen years.
This was a settled and progressive time for the Loft until 1958 when disaster struck in the shape of a fire which effectively destroyed the stage and dressing rooms. Performances continued but back again to the Town Hall, Jephson Gardens Pavilion and other venues. Rebuilding was completed and the theatre re-opened just 14 months later.
The 1960s onwards
Disaster struck again in 1964 when fire burned down the building. The Loft did have much local support and found temporary facilities in Urquhart Hall to continue performances. Meanwhile the task of redesigning and rebuilding the Loft Theatre was undertaken a task that took a further four years.
The current theatre
The Loft as you see it today was rebuilt and opened in 1968. Much renovation and refurbishment is of course now carried out on a continual basis to ensure that the building meets the current fire regulations and the requirements of Health & Safety legislation.
With humble beginnings of Church and Town Hall performances, we are now proud of our 200 seat air-conditioned theatre, an annual turnover in six figures enabling us to be fully self supporting, and our national reputation for producing high quality theatre.
A fully illustrated history of the Loft Theatre, Dorothy Fenner’s Noises On and Off, can be purchased at the theatre box office, price £5.00. This spans 75 years of Loft history and includes cast lists, programmes, photographs, posters and memories from members and audience over the years.