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New Seating for Wilton’s Music Hall
UK – Audience Systems has provided new seating for the Grade II listed Wilton’s Music Hall, the only surviving Grand Music Hall in the world.
Wilton’s has a fascinating history. It opened in 1859 to much excitement, attracting international audiences with Music Hall stars such as Champagne Charlie and Arthur Lloyd.
In the 1880s, the building closed as a music hall and was purchased by a Wesleyan Mission. During that time, the building continued to serve the community in various extraordinary ways; 2000 people were fed there during the dockers’ strike of 1889 for instance, and in the 1930s, it provided a safe haven for East End anti-fascists in their fight against Oswald Mosley.
The Methodists departed in 1950, and the building sadly fell into disrepair. A failed restoration attempt in the 1980s left the building gutted and structurally dangerous.
However, with the help of Heritage Lottery funding, a restoration of the elegant balcony, the beautiful barley twist columns and the front of house was completed in 2015. Then, in 2020, a smaller but crucial project was undertaken to improve the acoustics and seating in the auditorium. Called ‘The Beautiful Word’, the project was made possible by many generous donations and was chaired by Sir David Suchet.
Audience Systems’ Matrix chairs are a perfect solution for the stalls areas. Completely removable, they leave no marks on the floor and can be laid out quickly in groups. The system leaves the venue with the flexibility to remove the seating or change its layout, perfect for creating socially distanced seating configurations, for example.
To create good sightlines on the balcony, custom tiering was installed by Stage and Tiers, which also re-modelled the stage extension. This was topped by some very special removable Espace chairs by Audience Systems, some of which are raised to barstool height, with footrests.
The 374 new seats do not pretend to emulate the venue’s original seating. They are new seats, the venue is old. There is no artifice here. Instead they sit quietly (and comfortably) in the space, offsetting the remarkable beauty of a venue which has weathered so much, and remains magnificent for it.
Wiltshire-based Audience Systems design, manufacture and install seating for performance venues worldwide.
29th March 2021
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