National Youth Theatre awarded multi-million-pound funding to undergo major transformation of its Holloway Road headquarters

The National Youth Theatre (NYT) has been awarded £2,000,000 from the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund to undergo a major renovation to its Holloway Road building in North London. The radical development will enable NYT to double the number of young people they engage in the building through their annual programme which provides, free and affordable drama opportunities that champion diversity, creativity and routes into the creative industries.

The essential upgrade by award-winning architects DSDHA will secure and develop this thriving production hub for young people where creative on-stage, off-stage and digital talent of the future will receive world-class training and development opportunities that offer free and affordable alternative routes into the creative industries.

The building will include a new front pavilion, providing a fully accessible entrance from Holloway Road that is welcoming to all and including a new rehearsal studio and reception.  A new 200-seat studio ‘workshop’ theatre, three rehearsal spaces and a co-working space will also be created within the existing building, allowing NYT to double the number of young people coming into the building with future plans for a new Pocket Park to the south entrance in partnership with London Borough of Islington to improve air quality in the immediate location on the Holloway Road.

The 200-seat studio ‘workshop’ theatre will stage performances by NYT members from around the UK, NYT’s flagship free talent development companies the NYT REP, Playing Up and Stepping Up, and other new work by NYT Associate Companies and emerging creatives. The NYT will continue to stage work in the West End, and at leading theatres elsewhere in London and around the UK.

The new spaces will be made available to young people from Islington, London and nationwide to create new work together. School groups from around the UK will also be able to participate in regular skills workshops at the venue and see new NYT curriculum productions, which last year included Frankenstein, Great Expectations and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The new creative co-working space will provide opportunities for emerging playwrights, producers and theatre companies and embed NYT’s established Creative Leadership programme. The Creative Leadership programme provides free training and a structured route into paid leadership roles within the NYT and across the creative industries.

These new facilities will enable the expansion of NYT’s award-winning social inclusion programmes, Playing Up and Stepping Up continuing the organisation’s vital work with even more young people not in education, training or employment by providing opportunities to develop creative practice and gain accredited qualifications. Now in its 11th year, Playing Up has proved hugely successful with 85% of participants progressing into employment, further training or education opportunities. Applications for the 2020 Playing Up and Stepping Up cohorts are now open.

Building work will commence in May with the opening of the new building planned for late Spring 2021.

Through support from Arts Council England with a £500,000 grant, the NYT is also delighted to have secured the 999-year lease for the Holloway Road building, which has been home to NYT since 1987. Having previously been faced with a declining lease the NYT have taken this positive step to cement the future of the venue for years to come. The expansion will ensure long-term sustainability for NYT to continue its work nationally at a time where it is more vital than ever due to the sharp and continuing decline of arts provision in schools.

In addition to the Mayor of London’s Good Growth Fund and Arts Council England, the NYT has received significant donations in support from The Kirby Laing Foundation, London Marathon Charitable Trust, the Christina Smith Foundation and City Bridge Trust, the City of London Corporation’s charitable funder. A resolution to grant planning approval for this radical redevelopment was confirmed from Islington Council on 14th January 2020. Fundraising is continuing for the final 4.5% of the costs of the project.

The worlds’ first youth theatre, over its 64 years NYT has worked with hundreds of thousands of young people, many of whom have passed through its doors in Holloway Road over the past 32 years, from alumni Daniel Craig who also helped to paint the walls when the organisation first moved into the building, to Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rosamund Pike and Matt Smith rehearsing their London stage debuts at the venue, to Matthew Warchus embarking on his first directorial role. Originally a 19th Century music hall designed by Scottish architect George Truefitt known as ‘Holloway Hall’, the building also hosted rehearsals for James Graham’s first paid commission Tory Boyz and the NYT Team Welcome Ceremonies at the London 2012 Olympics and Paralympics. Other famous alumni who rehearsed as teenagers at Holloway Road and have gone on to global success include Zawe Ashton, David Oyelowo, Orlando Bloom, Adeel Akhtar, David Walliams, Matt Lucas, Jessica Hynes, Gareth Pugh, Sope Dirisu and many more.

Paul Roseby OBE, National Youth Theatre CEO and Artistic Director, said: “Redeveloping our north London home is game changing for our charity and the young people we serve. It will enable us to double the number of young creatives we work with in the building and make us more sustainable to the benefit of future generations of talent who will come through our doors. Alongside our expanding national programme at over 100 venues around the UK in 2020 and our continuing cultural exchange work around the globe, today’s news will secure an inclusive and engaging offer to our local community for many years to come. This is an exciting new chapter in our history as we continue to grow new audiences by telling new and relevant stories of our time. Whilst 70% of our membership and work will continue to be outside of London, we can’t be a truly national organisation without an aspirational local presence in our home borough of Islington, where, as child poverty rates show, the need is great. We’re grateful to all of our supporters for making possible this vital work with those who need it the most.”

Matt Smith, NYT Patron and Alumnus, star of Doctor Who and The Crown said: “The National Youth Theatre’s Holloway Road address has played a significant role in my London life. Not only did I rehearse for my London stage debut there, but I also made some everlasting friendships within its walls. It’s a home away from home where young people can be encouraged to grow and challenge themselves creatively. A revitalized Holloway Road home for the NYT will be a great asset to the area and a place where they can seek out further opportunities and continue to thrive in this great city.”

Barbara Broccoli OBE, NYT President and Bond producer said: “Making theatre more accessible and empowering thousands of young creatives every year is at the heart of what the National Youth Theatre does and this ambitious redevelopment will supercharge our capacity to do both at our north London home. By securing a sustainable future for the charity this redevelopment will also support our growing national programmes of creative work across the UK. I’m enormously grateful to the generosity of our supporters for making this vital redevelopment possible.”

Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, Jules Pipe, said: “We’re pleased to support the expansion and upgrade of the renowned National Youth Theatre, which will create fantastic new facilities and allow it to double the number of local young people it supports through free and affordable drama training.”

Deborah Saunt, DSDHA Director, said:  Our radical redevelopment at the National Youth Theatre will enable this vital part of Great Britain’s cultural infrastructure to deliver more of its fantastic work in the arts and education at a national scale. It will also consolidate their presence within London by bringing much needed local and environmental benefits and support at grassroots level, providing a welcoming front door for young people to engage in theatre.”

NYT Member Shakira Newton, said: “Last year NYT provided me with free space in their building on Holloway Road to rehearse and stage a performance to celebrate Black History Month called “Rush”. The new spaces will be brilliant in terms of allowing more young people to stage their own work in the building for local audiences. Taking part in activity in the NYT building has been really important to my own career development and personal growth. Making the building bigger, more welcoming and accessible is a brilliant idea and will allow lots more people to engage with NYT which can only be a good thing.”

Notes for Editors

National Youth Theatre

NYT is the UK’s leading youth arts organisation for young talent aged 11-25 and serves to provide free and affordable drama training to champion diversity, creativity and ambition in the industry through a dedicated annual programme of regional, national and international opportunities.

The expansion will ensure long-term sustainability for NYT to continue its work nationally at a time where it is more vital than ever due to the sharp decline of arts provision in schools.  Many programmes are piloted in the borough of Islington and across London where NYT delivers a varied creative programme including, for example, interactive knife crime prevention schools’ theatre tours, disability and inclusive practice training for emerging directors, creative leadership skills training for young people and digital storytelling courses engaging young digital talent in new technologies. The redeveloped site will also offer new apprenticeship opportunities for emerging talent and flexible workspaces for local creative people whilst NYT’s programmes will expand to encourage a greater number of people to become involved throughout the year during evenings and weekends. These opportunities will include a new partnership with Samuel Rhodes School, a special educational needs school for young people aged 5-19 in Islington, as part of the NYT’s committed Inclusion Programme. Our partnership with Samuel Rhodes School has been made possible by a grant from the Mayor’s Young Londoners Fund.

The announcement comes after a bumper 2019 season from NYT featuring work across the country including brand new commissions staged in five cities across the UK and festival appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe, Latitude and Bradford Literature Festival. The 7th annual REP season of Great Expectations, an AI adaptation of Frankenstein and A Midsummer Night’s Dream runs from 18 October – 17 January 2020 at Southwark Playhouse and The Criterion Theatre. For full details visit


DSDHA are an architecture, urban design and spatial research studio, established by Deborah Saunt and David Hills in 1998. Known for their high-profile urban strategies and innovative buildings, often in sensitive historic environments, they have twice been nominated for the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award and were shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize in 2010.

Blurring the boundaries between infrastructure, landscape and architecture, art and urbanism, their work is the result of extensive dialogue with neighbourhoods and communities, as well as stakeholders and collaborators, to deliver projects that have the broadest impact.

In considering the wider environmental, social and cultural needs of the built environment, as well as how it evolves over time, DSDHA question our preconceptions of the city to deliver a unique and site-specific response.

Recent and ongoing work includes the refurbishment of London’s iconic Economist Plaza and a new building on Piccadilly for The Crown Estate as well as the reimagining of Tottenham Court Road, the redesign of the public realm around the Royal Albert Hall and a new park for the City of London.

The Mayor’s Good Growth Fund

The Good Growth Fund is London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s £70 million regeneration programme to support growth and community development in London. Working with the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP), the fund supports innovative, best practice regeneration activities, that enable:

  • Londoners to actively participate in their local community and have a say in how their city is shaped
  • delivery of co-ordinated place-based strategies that welcome growth in a way that works with the physical character of London’s many places
  • diverse and accessible local economies – from our high streets and town centres to industrial areas – to realise their full potential and making London a place of opportunity for all

About Author /

Kath is an actor, singer and writer with a passion for theatre. She has been reviewing for At The Theatre since 2014. Kath has a Masters in Performance at Liverpool Hope University and is Creative Engagement Worker for B arts, a participatory arts organisation.

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