How did it start?
The adventure began peeping over a chain link fence with Steve Tompkins on our first visit to Liverpool together. We were looking at the preferred site of a previous feasibility study that sought to combine the Playhouse and Everyman theatres on a single spot as a new arts centre for Liverpool. It was windy, rainy, deserted and an island site in the middle of a roundabout. Great for getting sets into; lousy for humans to visit!
We returned with Gemma and Deborah for warm mugs of tea to the Grade II* Listed Playhouse on Willamson Square and puzzled at its closed front doors, and modernist concrete side entrance.. We schlepped up the hill to Hope Street to visit the Everyman with its forbidding facade and decrepit neon sign. We debated with Robert and Jeff which of their two theatres would win worst get-in in the UK. (Both were strong contenders!) We joked about the need for a dedicated electric shuttle bus to move the LMTT team between their two sites....
But even after all that - we just couldn’t work out why this wonderful theatre company would turn their back on these amazing buildings on amazing sites? Why would a company that wants to be in and of its city - locate itself peripherally? Why, despite their idiosyncrasies, are the Playhouse and The Everyman such special places?
Thus began an adventure that has absorbed almost all of Charcoalblue’s first ten years of business! From that first peek over the wire to jumping up and down on our seats as the new Everyman Theatre won the Stirling Prize - it has been a roller-coaster collaboration between inspired theatre makers, architects at the top of their game, a dedicated builder who loves to build, and a design team with skills matched only by their stamina!
Study tours that took us from Glasgow Citz to Hull Truck via Northern Stage and from Sheffield Crucible to Manchester Contact. Research into naturally-ventilated auditoria was painstaking. Consideration of how a thrust might best work in a narrower configuration and even matched with a flying facility was modelled scrupulously. Green Rooms with cafes, education spaces shared with professionals, and an endless search for the essence of a great foyer...
And then after years of dedicated work, to hear that a building that we love so much is recognised amongst such august company is the best 10th birthday present we could ever wish for; and testament to the long-standing, soulful collaboration that we enjoy with Haworth Tompkins.
Andy Hayles, Managing Partner, Charcoalblue