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The Orchard Theatre, in Home Gardens, Dartford will not open until next year

Plans to re-open a theatre have been delayed due to problems with technical equipment.

The Orchard Theatre in Home Gardens, Dartford, was aiming to welcome back show-goers in September after the council discovered RAAC in the roof last year.

The Orchard Theatre has been undergoing refurbishment
The Orchard Theatre has been undergoing refurbishment

But today, theatre bosses confirmed this would be delayed.

A statement released by the theatre said: “Whilst the RAAC roof replacement works are progressing well, the reinstatement of the venue’s technical equipment and the completion of wider works to improve audience experience means that the Orchard will not reopen for shows until early 2025.

“Some upcoming shows will transfer to Orchard West and others may need to be rescheduled or cancelled.”

Ticket holders have been advised to wait to be contacted by the theatre or their original point of purchase “once decisions are made”.

The building was forced to close with “immediate effect” last September after reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) was found in its roof.

The repairs were expected to cost £7m.

An inspection had been prompted by a nationwide audit of public buildings following the emergence of the potentially dangerous material in several schools last summer.

However, Dartford council and Trafalgar Theatres, the operator of the venue, ensured the show could go on when it constructed a £2 million alternative theatre, known as Orchard West.

The purpose-built theatre, just 300 metres away from The Orchard, in Hythe Street, was erected in just six weeks and included comfortable seating for all theatregoers and facilities for those guests with disability and accessibility requirement

And it was open just in time to welcome its first audiences for the panto season in December.

Speaking after opening night of Beauty and the Beast, leader of Dartford council Cllr Jeremy Kite said : “We were delighted we were able to get the theatre up and running so fast and it was wonderful that so many people came along to support the pantomime.

Orchard West was erected in time to host the town's Christmas pantomime
Orchard West was erected in time to host the town's Christmas pantomime

He added: “The arts are so important for Dartford. You can watch entertainment on TV and Youtube but it’s not the same as seeing a live production.

“People should come along to experience the new theatre before it goes and we forget it was ever here.”

Pantomime-lovers were full of praise stating: “It was much better than we expected.”

While another said: “The temporary theatre is quite large and is warm - which you need for a cold winter night.”

Following the latest set-back, Orchard West is now continuing with a string of productions until The Orchard is back up and running again.

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