Norden Farm raising cash for comfier seating

James Harrison

Getting bums on seats is one of the perennial problems for any arts venue, particularly the smaller and independent variety.

But for Maidenhead’s Norden Farm Centre for the Arts the issue has becoming rather different – keeping them comfortable.

The Altwood Road centre is seeking to raise almost £40,000 to refurbish the seats in its Courtyard Theatre.

Explaining the situation, chief executive and artistic director Jane Corry said: “The reason we need to do it is because it’s the one thing people get disappointed about at Norden Farm.

“The Courtyard was originally designed for live music, which means it’s got a lot of wonderful things like moveable walls so we can play around with the sound.

“But we also use it as a cinema as well and so people are sat there for much longer, and that’s when you can start to realise how long you’re there for.”

She added this can be a particular problem for live event screenings, such as those staged by the National Theatre, Royal Shakespeare Company and Glyndebourne Opera House‎, which can often run to four hours.

To pay for the scheme, a name a seat campaign is being run, with organisers hoping to attract sponsorship of £250 for all 150 seats in the theatre.

This will pay for a plaque carrying a name or dedication on the backrest.

Seats which already have sponsorship are to have their dedications transferred to a purpose-built display elsewhere in the venue.

Also on the cards at the arts centre are plans for a new education wing.

Martin Kaye, chairman of the centre’s board of trustees, raised the scheme at the last meeting of the Royal Borough’s Culture and Communities Overview and Scrutiny Panel on Tuesday, January 24.

He said he hoped to be able to increase the space on offer by tacking the site’s current ‘inefficient’ layout, but that a feasibility study would need to be completed before concrete ideas could be formed.

Afterwards he added: “We’ve been looking at it for years to try and make better use of the site and have better community and hiring facilities and just generally improve the site.

“We always need to be more competitive .”

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