Theatres across the UK forced to close over concrete concerns

A number of theatres across the UK have been forced to immediately close their doors due to concerns over crumbling concrete.

Venues have been inspecting their buildings after more than 100 schools were closed due to concerns over reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

The Royal & Derngate in Northampton closed its doors this week, cancelling all shows until the end of September.

The venue said in a statement: “Following a building survey that has taken place at Royal & Derngate, the presence of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) has been discovered in our foyers.

“In line with recent government health and safety guidance around this material, both of the Royal and Derngate auditoriums and Northampton Filmhouse will need to be closed with immediate effect.”

Dartford’s Orchard Theatre has also shut its doors.

They said: “When The Orchard Theatre was built in the early 1980s, reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) was considered a cheap and lightweight alternative to traditional concrete and the theatre was one of thousands of public buildings to use it during construction.

“Dartford Borough Council has been commissioning regular surveys on The Orchard Theatre and the last report from our specialist consultants in April this year continued to report that defects in the RAAC panels in the theatre’s roof were ‘not significant’. The Council nevertheless began planning to replace panels in the ‘medium to long term’ in line with the consultant’s advice.

“However, a routine inspection yesterday (Monday), carried out in line with the most recent industry guidance resulted in the consultant making a recommendation to close until such time as further surveys could be carried out and a solution identified.”

Some venues, including the National Theatre, have revealed the presence of RAAC in limited parts of their buildings but will continue to open as usual.

A spokesperson for the National Theatre told The Stage: “Our structural engineers are in the process of surveying these areas, and initial indications are that they are safe and do not currently require remedial works. We have always and will continue to take the safety of our staff and audiences very seriously.”

Claire Walker, co-chief executive of Society of London and UK Theatre, said: “We have been working on the issue of RAAC concrete with our colleagues at the Association of British Theatre Technicians and the Theatres Trust for a number of months, sharing guidance and having discussions at the industry Theatre Safety Committee. We will, of course, continue to update our guidance and support those affected, however we believe the number of theatres impacted will be extremely limited.”

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