Pre – History
The building that is the Albany Theatre main house was originally built as a lecture theatre. Called the Great Hall, it sat at the heart of Coventry Technical College, which opened in 1935.
During the 90’s there was a proposal to turn the theatre into 2 floors of computer science suites. This created the momentum to save the theatre.
In the late 2000s the City College faced acute financial pressures. Due to the campaign to save the 1930s auditorium, led by Alan Biddle and Coventry Musical Theatre Consortium, the City Council insisted on a “Section 106” planning condition. This aimed to ensure the safety of the theatre for the community, when the college building was finally sold to developers.
2013 saw the launch of The Albany Theatre with our first event, which was a sing-a-long for musical theatre societies and our first professional show – Brendan Shine.
Our entry onto the register of charities was an important step for the survival of theatre, giving us charitable status.
Connections and relationships continue to form in 2014, with more show from Three Spires Guildhall and YOG, as well as Ballet Theatre UK’s world premiere!
The theatre continued to grow with the employment of a theatre manager.
This was an important step to action our creative vision.
As our name and programme grew, we saw our first big name comedian perform – Alexei Sayle.
Our team also began to grow with 6 part time staff members being hired, this was an important step as the workload increased with bigger and bigger shows being booked.
Diversity in the arts has always been part of our vision, with performances by and for all members of our community. This was reflected by our Polish comedy night, which was a huge success!
The team continued to grow with us taking on apprentices, these were the first apprentices to qualify since the college had closed.
We also sponsored and led the first ever Spon End Festival, celebrating our local community and history.
In 2017 we saw Giovanni Pernice’s first show (Dance is Life) at the theatre, a relationship which continues to this day!
Our first in-house production (Wind in the Willows) took place. This helped provide the framework for the excellent in-house productions you see today (e.g A Christmas Carol).
We secured the 50-year lease to our spaces, which was a huge step forward in the stability of the theatre.
A huge year for the theatre as we saw our new studio and foyer spaces opening. An exciting development which allowed us to host a bigger variety of shows.
A great year for our programme with big names new and old, Henry Blofeld, Jason Donovan and Chris Ramsey are particular highlights. The Embroidery Girl was significant for us artistically as it offered a rare opportunity to see a full-scale Chinese dance show in the UK.
Our partnership with Ascension Dance began, this is an important relationship which again has continued to grow and strengthen over time.
We saw a truly extraordinary performance of Starlight Express by YOG in 2019, with the young cast on roller skates. We are one of the only theatres with a technical team to take on the creation of such a feat.
Building a roller rink around the entire main house.
To this day this is one of the biggest sets we have had!
A year which was very difficult for us all.
With vast uncertainty within the arts industry, we had to close due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Without the governments Cultural Recovery Fund our story may have ended here.
As we began to come through the other side of the pandemic, there was good news for Coventry. We were announced as the UK’s City of Culture 2021.
This opened many doors for the arts industry in Coventry and allowed for an expansive programme of activity around the city.
Our highlight was the organisation of the Generate Festival which helped put a spotlight on the amazing local talent in and around Coventry.
2022 has been our most successful year so far, going against the trend of uncertainty after Covid. This was seen across the board but none more so than with the return of our in-house production of A Christmas Carol.
Smashing targets, superb reviews and providing us the opportunity to invite those who may not normally be able to come to theatre.
The launch the Albany Youth Theatre was another bright spark for the year and will be an important part of our mission to ‘Engage. Inspire. Create’.
What a year it is shaping up to be, with the transformation of our spaces taking place thanks to Coventry City Council’s capital funding.
The redevelopment incorporates additional ground floor sections of the former college building and the courtyard.
There will be:
- A new studio theatre
- Two further studios
- Larger foyer area
- Volunteer room
- Extra green rooms
- New toilet facilities
- A changing facility.
The improvements will allow the theatre to open its doors to even more local groups and performers. Allowing us to play a critical role as a creative hub in the city and enabling access to the arts for all.
None of our past, present or future would have been possible without our amazing volunteer team (over 100!) who have kept the place running.
Our community and patrons are the most important thing us and you are why we do what we do.
A massive thank you from all of us at The Albany Theatre for making us who we are.