Topping out ceremony for new theatre development on Coldharbour Lane, Brixton

2 March 2020

Written by: Lambeth Council

Children and young people - Council statements and updates - Focus on Brixton - Housing and planning - Neighbourhoods - News and announcements - Post Type - Sustainable growth and opportunity - Topic area

The long awaited and much anticipated move for Ovalhouse to its new theatre and creative hub in Brixton has taken a major step forward. A ceremonial bolt was inserted in the roof of the theatre’s new site, in Coldharbour Lane, during a “topping out” ceremony held on Friday (February 28).

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Topping out ceremony for new theatre development on Coldharbour Lane, Brixton
Coldharbour councillor Scarlett O’Hara, Cabinet Member for Planning, Investment and New Homes Matthew Bennett, Dulwich & West Norwood MP Helen Hayes, and Lambeth Council leader Jack Hopkins, help to tighten the ceremonial bolt in the new Ovalhouse Theatre


The move, which will be completed in the Spring next year, comes after the theatre sold its site in Kennington and secured a £3million grant from the Arts Council England.

The new creative hub is a key element of the council-led regeneration of Somerleyton Road. As well as bringing the Ovalhouse to Brixton, the ambitious project will provide over 300 homes – 50% of them affordable –and the development of workspaces and community facilities.

The new Brixton theatre has been designed by Edmund Wilson of Foster Wilson Architects as a fully accessible space for both artists and audiences. There will be two theatre spaces, rehearsal studios as well as high-quality training facilities and spaces for use by the local community.

Word from the Cabinet

Matthew Bennett, Lambeth’s Cabinet Member for Planning, Investment and New Homes, said: “I’m delighted we have reached this important milestone on what is a brilliant project for Brixton. Adding a world class theatre with a youth and community focus to the heart of Brixton supports so many of our aims as an organisation.”

“This represents a huge cultural and financial investment on behalf of local people, and I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say we are eagerly anticipating the theatre opening its doors.”

Deborah Bestwick, current Director of Ovalhouse, said: “We’re bringing theatre back to Brixton. It is wonderful to see the structure go up and the space take shape. We look forward to welcoming new friends as audiences, participants, trainees and new staff members.”

“The new theatre will offer a new generation of theatre companies and artists a space to develop their work in Brixton and beyond. We are hugely grateful to our funder Arts Council England and partner Lambeth Council, and to the charities who have kickstarted our fundraising campaign including Cockayne, The Wolfson Foundation and The Garfield Weston Charitable Trust.”

The theatre has a long history of supporting new talent and offering artists and theatre makers a launchpad into the arts. Alongside the opening of the main theatre, the organisation has also been working with local Brixton primary schools and architects MATT+FIONA to construct a temporary theatre in the spring.

It is six years since the council set out its ambitious vision for the Somerleyton Road project. Following extensive consultation with local residents, the scheme has gathered pace over recent months, after the council appointed Galliford Try to push ahead with the first phase of the regeneration scheme – involving the development of the new theatre and the refurbishment of the listed building Carlton Mansions.

Lambeth’s Cabinet last year gave the green light to plans to build hundreds of new homes at the site. Cabinet members also recommended that HfL – the council’s wholly-owned housing company – should build the new homes, in order to maximise the number of genuinely affordable properties.

Gavin Bridge, Managing Director of Galliford Try Southern, said: “It’s great to be able to celebrate the progress we have made on what is such a significant project for Lambeth Council and the theatre.”

“It is always gratifying to work on schemes such as these which deliver lasting change to local communities and we look forward to finishing the project now and seeing the theatre up and running.”

Throughout the year the theatre co-produces a series of ‘FiRST BiTES’ developed with emerging artists, as well as, participation and learning programmes for all ages and backgrounds, such as current projects ‘Imagining Futures’ in partnership with NHS and SLaM supporting vulnerable young women aged 14-18 and ‘Demonstrate’ an ongoing engagement and performance workshop for autistic young people and their families and carers.

The theatre will continue their commitment to developing new work and engagement for all in their new home. There will be an offsite programme of work launching in the spring 2020 before the doors open to the new theatre in spring 2021.

To find out more about the history of Ovalhouse and past work visit and to keep updated on the development of the new theatre sign up the mailing list: