From Derelict Knitting Factory to the Best Amateur Theatre of its Kind in the UK!
The year it all started – 1969
The same year as 18 year olds were given the vote; Concorde flew for the first time; Prince Charles was invested as Prince of Wales; Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon and the first steps were taken in Hinckley towards a town theatre.
At first sight it looked like a monument to industrial decrepitude. A disused hosiery factory up a side street in Hinckley, a Victorian brick building which even Sir John Betjeman might have found difficult to love. But first impressions can so often be false. This disused four storey factory which had been empty since the end of the war was identified, examined and finally assessed as a possibility for conversion to a theatre. It was in a dilapidated state but structurally sound. It obviously had problems, but it had potential. The dream became a reality by the generosity of a benefactor who loaned the £10,000 necessary to purchase the property. Hinckley theatre and musical societies worked together to design, raise money and convert the old building into the well-equipped theatre we have today. This relic of another era now houses the physical result of labours borne out of the skill, enterprise and sheer resolution of a group of people to whom the word theatre means magic.
It took weeks just to clear the building, to remove four lorry loads of scrap metal – formerly steam pipes, sprinkler systems and conduit – to hack out about eight hundred broken panes, to remove false ceilings and knock down partition walls. The floor was taken out between the first and third storey to form the 400 seated raked auditorium. Voluntary labour removed the 14 R.S.J.’s supporting the floor, each weighing one ton, in one weekend. A 20 foot high tower was erected above the building at the stage end to facilitate the flying of scenery.
The theatre is based on the three sections of the old hosiery factory – two joined together as a single building and the third linked by a 25ft ‘bridge corridor’. Areas within the theatre include lower and upper foyer, box office, large licensed bar, coffee lounge, rehearsal rooms, studio theatre, youth theatre, green room (known as the public room), dressing rooms, scenery bay and workshop (where the majority of sets are designed and constructed), plus an area dedicated to painting cloths, stage/auditorium, wardrobe and props department.
The Concordia Theatre is wholly owned and administered by The Hinckley Concordia Association (HCA). It is a registered charity and, we are pleased to say that the volunteer ethos which made this dream come true is still in existence today, the theatre is completely run by volunteers.
The Explorers had a great experience learning about its history and taking part in a guided tour around some of the parts the general public don't get the opportunity to see.