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Brighton outdoor theatre gets go-ahead

Plans for a 425-seat open air venue passed by council

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Brighton council has approved plans for the construction of a new open air theatre, one which could be opened by next May, in time for the Brighton Festival.

The Brighton Open Air Theatre (BOAT) plans have been with the council for the past year, with discussions involving cycle access and the number of nights in a week that the theatre would be open for.

Plans for BOAT

BOAT, which will seat 425, is the brainchild of writer and club compere Adrian Bunding who died in May this year.

James Payne, one of BOAT's trustees, said that the plans were advanced when Bunting died and his friends are hoping to complete what he started.

"There are several of us involved," said Payne. "I'm a writer but we have an actor, arts administrator and builder all bringing different skills. Adrian left £18,000 and we've since raised another £32,000 from private donations. We're looking to raise another £20,000 by January to finish the work — although it's largely a landscaping job now."

BOAT, which is to be sited on a disused bowling green in Dyke Road Park, will operate between May and September and will receive no grants. Despite this, Payne thinks the theatre will be a great success.

"We have no artistic vision for it, so we're in slightly uncharted territory. We've had a few enquiries from local theatres. We hope to have used as much as possible: by schools and amateur dramatics or by touring companies such as the Globe or even Glyndebourne."

He says they're also looking at the possibility of showing opera screenings as well as live comedy performances. And he says that he's not daunted by inclement weather: "If it rains, I'm pretty sure the show will go on."

Payne is now looking forward to the opening night. "We have no idea what our opening production will be, may be some Shakespeare, maybe one of Adrian's works. Whatever it will be, it will be an emotional occasion."