The Dixon Studio within The Palace Theatre is due to reopen after weeks of closure due to the risk of crumbling concrete.
The roof of the studio, which is part of an extension to the original grade two listed building, was constructed in the 1980’s with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).
Now the Dixon, which is mainly used by local community groups, will reopen on Wednesday 22 November with Southend Drama Society’s staging of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s gothic novella (running until Saturday 25 November).
Nick Parr, theatre director of Southend Theatres, said: “The Dixon Studio provides an essential space locally for amateur dramatic and community groups to rehearse and perform. We cannot wait to welcome our local community groups and professional performers back to the Dixon Studio.”
Cllr Derek Jarvis, cabinet member for arts, culture, heritage and leisure, said: “This is fantastic news for the local community groups who use the Dixon Studio and the audiences who enjoy the shows, and I want to thank those who have been affected for their patience and understanding.”
Investigations carried out proactively by Southend-on-Sea City Council’s building and facilities team discovered the RAAC and took the precaution of closing the studio while interim safety measures could be put in place.
Cllr John Lamb, cabinet member for regulatory services, said: “I think most will agree that we have worked quickly and effectively to take the necessary steps to put interim measures in place and ensure the safety of those who will be using the Dixon.
“Although the risk of the RAAC failing was always incredibly low, we did not want to take the risk of keeping it open until we put extra measures in place.”
Work will now begin on the long-term solution of replacing the roof and removing the RAAC completely, which will take time due to the grade two listing of the building. Although the Dixon Studio is an extension, it is included within the grade two listing of the original building and requires specialist planning permission.