The Leys School, Cambridge is set to open a new £9.5million multi-purpose facility that will play a central role in school life. Designed by Cambridge architects Bland, Brown and Cole and built by Vinci Construction and Munro Group, Great Hall is a project that has taken five years (from planning permission) to become a reality.
Professional theatre consultants Charcoalblue (previous work includes Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Bristol Old Vic and The National Theatre’s new ‘Shed’ building on London’s South Bank) designed Great Hall’s theatre, which has equipment and facilities to rival, if not surpass, those in most West End theatres. The theatre will be used by the school and in the future by professional companies for performances.
Mark Slater, Headmaster of The Leys, said:
“I see this project as an enhancement of every sphere of school life: academic, in the provision of a drama department and major improvements to our science facilities; extra-curricular, in the addition of a theatre, drama studio and dance studio which will be a point of focus for one of the strengths of the school in recent years, our excellence in the performing arts; and pastoral, in that the Assembly Hall will provide an impressive venue where the whole school will gather each week, and the café will be a convivial meeting place for pupils in their free time. Great Hall will thus, like our beautiful Chapel, be at the very heart of the community spirit which is such a special feature of The Leys.
“I am filled with excitement and enthusiasm about the building of Great Hall, and the opportunities it gives us for further improvement and growth in reputation.”
The need for Great Hall came about because the old theatre, built in 1967, was no longer fit for purpose in terms of structure and space – The Leys has nearly 200 more pupils than it did in the 1960’s.
The Great Hall project has evolved over a number of years into the best solution to the school’s future needs.
The finished building makes the most of the space created by the demolition of the old theatre, with a highly flexible modern building which extends the 1927 Thomson Building (The Leys Science Department) to include three new science labs. The dictates of planning regulations mean that Great Hall is the last significant new build on the school site and it has been specifically designed for longevity and spaces that are as “future proof” as possible.
Austin Jessop, ex-Deputy Head of The Leys who managed the project, said:
“This is a project that has been inspired by teachers with the best interests of our pupils in mind. From the social function that the café area will provide, to the separation of practical and written teaching space in the new science labs, to a teaching theatre that would impress even the West End, this building has been a project born of passion for the school. I am excited to see Great Hall in use as it will benefit both our pupils and our local community.”
Pupils will start to use Great Hall from the beginning of the 2013/14 Autumn Term.