The Place Theatre, Bedford

About Us

Bedford Players Trust, the parent charity of The Place, was established in 1984 and for the next fifteen years focussed on the provision of rehearsal premises for local theatre groups, and on the promotion of professional touring theatre in Bedford. The latter included many successful visits by Manchester's Royal Exchange Theatre, and a number of visits by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

In early 2002, the opportunity arose for the Trust to take over the lease on the disused premises formerly occupied by the Bedford Boys Club (latterly the Bedford Club for Young People). Originally built in the 1960's as a purpose-built boxing club, the building was structurally sound but largely derelict internally, with an open-plan layout which at first sight was quite unsuited to use as a theatre.

A major fund-raising initiative was launched, and a program of substantial internal modification saw the conversion of the upper storey of the building into rehearsal and meeting rooms, with the main ground floor area (in which the boxing ring had once stood) being converted into a fully-equipped 130-seat theatre with associated foyer and dressing-room facilities. The rehearsal rooms came into use in September 2002, and the theatre formally opened in January 2003 with public performances of Jim Cartwright’s play "Two", performed by local group Blackout Theatre Company. Since that time, the venue has become home to some half-dozen 'resident' groups which, together with occasional visiting groups and schools, present a packed and varied programme of theatre.

In 2007 the day-to-day management of The Place was transferred to Bedford Theatre Trust Ltd under a management agreement with the Player’s Trust (which continues to hold the lease). The Place is run entirely by volunteers with no paid staff, and since the initial building conversion was completed has operated entirely on hire income without any form of financial support by way of revenue grant aid.

Looking forward, the priorities for the Trusts are to continue with the incremental improvement of the venue as funds allow, to promote new writing and the development of new directors (with a focus on local talent), and to encourage use of the venue by senior students from local state and independent schools so as to provide them with a professional environment in which to produce and perform.

Acknowledgements

The conversion of the building to a theatre complex was only possible thanks to the time and financial generosity of a great many people and organisations. Major financial grants and donations were received from the following organisations, and their support is gratefully acknowledged:

  • The Harpur Trust (The Bedford Charity);
  • EB Bedfordshire (Entrust);
  • Bedford Borough and County Councils;
  • The House of Industry.