Theatr Ardudwy

The first post-war theatre listed in Wales and a fine example of Brutalist architecture.

Theatrardudwy harlech c brinkstock alamy stock photo ttwebuseandsmonly detail
Address
St David's Hill, Harlech, Gwynedd, LL46 2PU, Wales
Risk Rating
7 (Community Rating: 3, Star Value: 2, Risk Factor: 2.)
Local Authority
Gwynedd Council
Owner
Private ownership
Architect
Colwyn Foulkes and Partners
Date of Construction
1973
Listing
Grade II*
Capacity
266

Significance

Theatr Ardudwy was built as an arts centre attached to the Grade II* listed Coleg Harlech, an adult education college. In 2016 it was determined that the theatre itself should also be included in the listing as it was both under the same ownership and as a structure forming part of and attached to a listed building. Some of the theatre’s facilities are also housed in parts of the original college building. The theatre is a radical design with all elements of the building having a clear external expression, and is considered a fine example of refined Brutalism of the period.

Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech interior

Why is this theatre at risk?

In February 2018 safety concerns forced the theatre to close. There had been little investment in the external fabric of the building for many years. The roof was in need of repair and there were concerns over the deteriorating condition of the exterior of the building, including some of the concrete elements where the steel reinforcement had rusted.

Coleg Harlech also closed. Addysg Oedolion Cymru, the building owners, had been in conversation with the Welsh Government about an urgent repairs and planned maintenance programme for both the college and the theatre building. A feasibility study commissioned for the college site in 2016 recommended that a hotel or restaurant with serviced accommodation would be the most viable use for the site, to be run by a commercial operator. Concerns were raised that the physical condition of the theatre building may deter commercial operators and, through this, concern over the long-term viability of the theatre. At that time it was suggested that the theatre be demolished. This led to the confirmation that the theatre was indeed included in the Coleg’s listing, offering some protection for its future.

Following on from this work, Cadw, the Welsh Government's historic environment service, in partnership with Snowdonia National Park Authority and working with the owner, undertook to complete a Planning Guidance Note to provide a planning framework to inform any future development. In 2018 Addysg Oedolion Cymru finally took the decision to sell the site.

In October 2018 there were reports of theft of lead and copper on both the theatre workshop and main college building roofs. Additional security measures, including fencing, CCTV and alarms, have since been introduced.

In April 2019 it was announced that local businessman Leslie Banks Irvine had bought the site, although his plans for the theatre and any proposed redevelopment of the site were unknown. Then in September 2019 Banks Irvine took the decision to put the site back on the market. The future of both college and theatre remain uncertain but intrinsically linked.

Theatre potential

The local community currently has no access to the arts without significant travel.

Arts Council Wales, who awarded the theatre various grants over the years, believes that the theatre could be included in any development plans for the college site and that the site as a whole has potential as a community and cultural sector asset.

Current situation

Both theatre and college remain closed, the site up for sale and, it is understood, currently under offer.

Cadw is seeking to carry out a fresh condition survey on the site and all buildings, but this is subject to the current owner giving consent. Work is on hold until the new ownership has been resolved.

Theatres Trust hopes to work with the future owner, as well as Arts Council Wales and Gwynedd Council to find a viable long-term solution for the theatre that both serves its local community and protects this fine theatre.

Main photo Theatre Ardudwy, Brinkstock/Alamy Stock Photo

Interior, Theatres Trust, Rob Firman