VIDEO: Square Chapel’s £6.6m transformation

Square Chapel

Square Chapel

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A new, long-awaited £6.6m building for the Square Chapel Centre for the Arts is to open in spring.

It will transform the historic centre by creating a new extension and improved facilities for all who use the arts venue.

The new space will include a multi-purpose auditorium for performances, film screenings and workshops, a cafe-bar, improved access, new dressing rooms, new and improved toilet facilities, a new projector and sound system, dedicated space for volunteers as well as direct access to the Piece Hall.

Square Chapel’s story began in 1988, when six local theatre lovers bought the run-down building for just £25.

Their vision was to turn it into a vibrant centre for professional artists and the community.

Built in 1772, Square Chapel is one of only a handful of square churches ever built.

Years of neglect had taken its toll on the Grade II* listed building, which had fell into a state of dangerous disrepair and remained seriously threatened with demolition until it was bought by the Square Chapel Trust. It was structurally unsound with no windows, half a roof and a wall on the verge of collapse.

As the building work got underway and eventually the structure was deemed safe, there was no reason why concerts could not begin straight away.

Staff had to work with what they had as funds were still being raised, so the earliest concerts took place in the dark, undecorated auditorium. The audience and performers wore hard hats because of potential plaster falling from above and they were given blankets to stop them getting cold as the building had no glass windows or heating.

Three years later, windows and doors were finally installed as well as fully functioning toilets. Then in 1993 an office area and a dressing room was added but the centre also needed a bar. Struggling with money, the trust did not have any spare funds to build one so they enlisted the help of volunteers who used donated materials.

Old bricks from the building were used and the bar itself was made out of old kitchen units. The ceiling was covered with material to hide the exposed lighting and roof - a simple trick that is still in use today.

Sqaure Chapel now attracts almost 30,000 people a year and employs 20 full time and part-time staff.

Funding for the project has come from a number of sources including Arts Council England, Calderdale Council, Foyle Foundation, Garfield Weston Foundation, Wolfson Foundation, Monument Trust, Sir George Martin Trust as well as public donations, individual giving, businesses and fundraising events by the centre’s circle of supporters.

Watch the video to see how the transformation has progressed.