History of the South London Theatre
The South London Theatre is a Community theatre in West Norwood in the London Borough of Lambeth, England. Founded in October 1967 (as the South London Theatre Centre), it became a busy theatre venue, presenting over 22 shows annually in two auditoria: the 100 seater proscenium arch Bell Theatre and a smaller seater black box theatre named Prompt Corner, it also has a private basement bar open 364 nights a year which was host to regular social events. This building is currently closed for restoration work with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund. At present shows are being produced at the Stanley Halls in both the Lower Hall (larger than the Bell Theatre) and the Upper Hall which has the same capacity as Prompt Corner.
The plays produced include all genres; Shakespeare, comedy, classics, pantomime, musicals, and modern cutting-edge drama. New writing is particularly encouraged as are aspiring directors. There are plenty of roles behind scenes and help and encouragement is given to new members.
There is a very active youth group (South London Youth Theatre) as well as children's classes. The children have their own showcases and are also encouraged to participate in the main productions.
The Gothic revival style building was originally a fire station, built in 1881. It retains much of that original character, for example, it is the only fire station for horse drawn tenders which still has the look out tower and doors in place. The building should always retain its historic features as the frontage of the building is grade two listed. It had a short history as a fire station as it was built for horse-drawn fire engines and the new motorised appliances were too big for the doors, which could not be extended. The area behind these doors, where the appliances and horses were kept, is now the Bell Theatre stage. Between its life as a fire station and its role now as a theatre, the building was a hall for the local church and an illegal boxing venue.
The design for the conversion to a theatre was by Owen Luder (later to become President of the Royal Institute of British Architects on two occasions and a well-known Dulwich personality). The original design for the building was probably by Richard Pearsall, of the Metropolitan Board of Works, Architect's Department.
Like all old buildings it requires a lot of maintenance and a renovation is planned which should make the building fully accessible and able to accept performances from external theatre companies. A grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund was approved in July 2014 and we hope work on this can start in Summer 2016.
SLT moved out of the Old Fire Station in October 2015 to allow the building renovation to take place and has found a temporary home at Stanley Halls in South Norwood.
Work finally began on the Old Fire Station in September 2016.
When we move back there will only be one (larger) performance space, with room to build another when funds permit, but extra rehearsal space will enable us to return to 2 shows a month immediately. The second space will allow visiting productions at the same time as the two will be separated by the foyer.
The South London Theatre is a member of the Little Theatre Guild of Great Britain.