The Hazlitt Theatre Maidstone
The Hazlitt Theatre, which is situated in Earle Street, Maidstone, was first constructed in 1869 as a Concert Hall, behind which was the town’s Corn Exchange, itself built in 1835. Today the original Corn Exchange is partly in use as a shopping arcade but the rest, now called the Exchange Studio, is used for concert performances. The Theatre and Exchange are jointly known today as the Hazlitt Arts Centre although the Theatre itself still bares the Corn Exchange name above its facade.
The 1869 Concert Hall was converted into the proscenium arched Hazlitt Theatre in 1955, and was named after William Hazlitt, a preacher in Maidstone who was active in the town’s non conformist church in the late 1700s. The Theatre has seating for 382 people on two levels, stalls and one circle, and has 5 dressing rooms, a licensed bar, a stage 6.4 metres wide by 8 metres deep and 4.5 metres high, an orchestra pit, and a large scene dock.
Hadene Building Services had been contracted to replace the entire heating system and to construct a new boiler room on the roof of the theatre, but to also maintain the opening of the theatre. The objectives were to plan the works that fitted with the programme for the Theatre and to complete the works before the main bookings in April 2012, as to overrun would cause the Theatre to cancel performances.
This operation was the most involved, as it required a scaffold and winches to move the steel beams to the floating roof, which required boarding out to transport the steel to the new plant room position. By the side of the plant room was an 8 metre glass light-well dome leading down to the concourse of the shopping mail below, so considerable safety considerations had to be made during it construction.
To overcome this challenge Hadene built a wooden structure around the light-well dome, with 18mm marine ply protecting the glass and break netting below. This operation ran on time and without incident, due to careful planning and strict adherence to Health and Safety.