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Good luck, Mountview

We seem to be going through a little spate of drama schools moving into sparkly new premises or dramatically (the right adverb perhaps) improving their existing fabric, or extending into new refurbished annexes.

Last year GSA moved into a brand new building at Stag Hill when it became part of the University of Surrey, and its nearby on-campus new performance space is about to open. East 15 is now as active in Southend as it is at Loughton with its beautiful Clifftown Studios church conversion and (separate) teaching block on the main shopping street - not to mention a big building project back at Loughton.

Drama Studio London, part of Central St Martins College of Art and Design, is due to move into a magnificent mew building behind St Pancras and King’s Cross Station next term. LAMDA, too, is planning a major rebuild to include an on-site theatre adjacent to its existing Barons Court premises, once St Paul’s School and for many years the home of the Royal Ballet School. And the new Milton Court building will soon (2013) be part of the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Now there’s good news for Mountview too. Haringey Council has backed plans for it to move into the Hornsey Town Hall in 2014. It would have a 125-year lease and pay a peppercorn rent.

The proposals envisage Mountview, currently based - and very cramped - in Wood Green, re-locating to the Town Hall as part of a major capital project intended to create appropriate facilities while sensitively restoring the Grade 2* listed building. If it comes off the move will take Mountview back to Crouch End where it all began.

The idea is that Mountview would, in association with the local authority, be responsible for the refurbishment of the building and its day-to-day running, ensuring continued public access and offering plenty of education and community activities.

Most significant of all is probably the two new theatre spaces which are planned. Bennetts Associates, the architects behind the recently reopened Royal Shakespeare Theatre, are on board.

So who’s paying for all this? The overall costs of the refurbishment project are currently estimated at around £19 million. A contribution from the sale of surrounding land to a residential developer will be invested by Haringey Council. The rest has to come from Mountview and its fund-raising campaign.

The plans are to be fully launched later this year before a fresh planning application for the site is made. Mountview and Haringey Council also have to get formal approval from English Heritage.

Meanwhile Sue Robertson, Principal of Mountview, is upbeat about progress so far.

“These plans will bring Mountview back to Crouch End, stronger than ever, in stunning new premises.” she says. “The proposals would allow us to develop new courses, strengthen our links with the professional theatre world and extend our education and community programme across Haringey. Most importantly, it will enable everyone - students, visitors and the local community - to enjoy this beautiful landmark building once again, bringing it back to life with renewed energy and purpose for present and future generations. There is much work to be done, but this is a major step towards achieving shared goals and a project everyone can be proud of.”

Of course there’s many a slip twixt cup and lip, as my granny was wont to remind me, but I wish them well and hope it all goes ahead.

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