Saturday, July 13, 2024

National Skills Academy opens its doors

A NEW £13.5 million flagship technical training facility for performing arts production opens its doors this week to its first group of trainees.

The National Skills Academy’s Backstage Centre at High House Production Park, Thurrock is a new world-class production training venue for theatre, music and live events. It provides a state-of-the-art, purpose-built technical centre that provides full offstage and backstage technical and rehearsal facilities for large-scale live theatre and music events, including arena tours, operas and commercial musicals.

Designed and specified by experts in the theatre, music and live events industry to the scale and standard of a full performance venue stage environment, it is the product of a unique collaboration funded by Thurrock Thames Gateway Development Corporation, the Skills Funding Agency and the Homes and Communities Agency.

It was developed by Creative & Cultural Skills through its National Skills Academy to meet industry demands for advanced training for students and apprentices in a safe environment. Now it’s preparing to welcome students from its network of Founder Colleges from across the UK, and those on its apprenticeship pathways, working towards and in careers in backstage and offstage production.

Located at High House Production Park in Purfleet, Essex, part of a £60 million development to create a new national hub for the creative and cultural industries, the building houses:

Main rehearsal sound stage of 875m2, 15m technical grid bearing 100 tonnes
HGV access
Green room
Technical production office
Generic workshop space
Band rehearsal room
Recording studio
Dance studio/rehearsal space
Dressing rooms including wheelchair accessible
Laundry room and crew showers
Training spaces for lighting, sound and AV
Props and painting workshop

The 14-acre site, High House Production Park, is also home to the Royal Opera House’s Bob and Tamar Manoukian Production workshop and a collection of Grade II-listed farm buildings which have been renovated for community and creative workshop use. This includes a cafe, heritage walled gardens and a children’s playground.

High House was originally built in the sixteenth century as a high status farm with its distinctive dovecote. After the building of the Purfleet Bypass, the farm fell into disrepair until 2006 when the current development was first proposed.

Pauline Tambling, Joint CEO, Creative & Cultural Skills and Managing Director, National Skills Academy for Creative & Cultural said:

“This is an extremely exciting day for us. After a build project of nearly two years and four years of planning and fundraising we are thrilled with the results. The specification and standard of the building, the technical facilities provided and the location at High House Production Park make it a very special building indeed.

“The potential benefit to trainees in the live entertainment industry cannot be overestimated. Furthermore, it promises to be a source of regeneration to the area as a new hub for the arts industry.”

Graham Farrant, Chief Executive, Thurrock Council said:

“When people think of careers in the arts, they don’t always consider the many roles that go on behind the scenes. This new academy will bring many opportunities for those wishing to pursue a career in this field. Choosing to open it in Thurrock gives our residents and beyond the opportunity to achieve their goals. This is part of our overall commitment to encourage and promote job creation and economic prosperity”.

Kim Thorneywork, Chief Executive of the Skills Funding Agency, added:

“For people who dream of working in theatre, music and live events, being able to access high-quality training opens doors. This amazing, state-of-the-art, purpose-built technical centre means students and apprentices can benefit from advanced, industry-relevant training in a safe environment. We are delighted to have been involved in funding this exciting project.”


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