How we helped to transform Hall for Cornwall

Adlib’s installation of Stage Engineering and Stage Lighting & Audiovisual infrastructure helps to bring in West End musicals to Hall for Cornwall
Download PDF

Hall for Cornwall occupies an important Grade II listed heritage building built in 1846 in the fashionable Italianate style, made from Carn Brea granite to reflect the affluence of Victorian Truro.  

Originally the building housed the Town Hall, Magistrates and Stannary Courts, Police Office and cells, as well as the Fire Brigade. Used from the 1900s as a Public Hall, including an ice-skating rink and picture house. In 1914, fire gutted much of the building bringing the clock crashing into the council chamber. In the 1960s/70s – the building had a variety of uses, including hosting gigs, music contests, amateur dramatics, trade shows and markets. Queen’s Roger Taylor played there, whilst Long John Baldry and Rod Stewart vied for dates alongside The Truro Fatstock Show.

Development in the early 90s resulted in a 900-seat performance space with retractable bleacher seating and technical infrastructure typical of the time. Unfortunately, the capacity was insufficient to bring in the most prominent theatre productions, and the space needed an overhaul to reflect 21st-century productions and audiences. In 2018 a new redevelopment project was established to take the existing auditorium boundaries, as defined by the proscenium line and foyers on each side, then scoop out the old auditorium and replace it with a 1,253-seat horseshoe theatre.

The new auditorium was to be free-standing inside the listed walls of the hall and needed to incorporate all the facilities of a modern performance space, including an accessible control room, audio description room, AV rack room, and acoustic drapes. In addition to new facilities, the budget demanded that certain elements be retained and integrated into new systems. This included modifying the orchestra pit deck and guide rails, protecting and re-commissioning 192 dimmer channels, and re-wiring legacy facility panels in the stage house.

Theatre consultant Charcoalblue was appointed to develop the technical design of the venue, and Adlib was involved in Stage Engineering (SE) and Stage Lighting & Audiovisual (SLAV) elements at an early stage following a competitive tender process. A series of workshops with M&E contractor Totus resulted in the Adlib design team producing a set of detailed schematics, arrangement, and manufacturing drawings, allowing the HfC team to check every element against their design goals. Example facility panels and acoustic banners were produced and demonstrated at Adlib's impressive Knowsley headquarters, giving reassurance to the end-user.

The Challenge - Orchestra Pit Lift

The Stage 4 design process identified a need for the ageing orchestra pit lift mechanism to be replaced entirely due to ongoing reliability issues. An investigation by Adlib revealed that the old 'pots' for the screw-jacks had been damaged since they were first installed, causing groundwater to get into the gearboxes and frequently flooding the lift pit.

“The technical team on site were having reliability problems with the pit lift. And as anyone in theatre will know, the pit lift is vital to a lot of operations,” Rob Crossland explained.

This element of the project was challenging because the 5-ton pit deck had to remain in place while the drive system was replaced, necessitating the design and manufacture of bespoke props which could support the deck without impeding the installation of the new system.

The Solution - Serapid LinkLift

Having worked with Serapid on several projects, Adlib's Tony Griffiths didn't hesitate to specify a LinkLift solution alongside a new control and safety system.

Unlike screw-jacks, LinkLift does not require a hole in the slab, eliminating any risk from groundwater. This is achieved through rigid chain technology, whereby the lifting chain is stowed horizontally when retracted. The static capacity for each LinkLift can be up to 200kN, and travel distances of 8m are possible. This versatility allowed Adlib to install 4 LinkLifts instead of 8 screw-jacks, reducing complexity and installation time.

A new control system was commissioned, allowing access at the basement, auditorium, and stage levels. This included the integration of legacy safety equipment, as well as installing new light curtains in the basement area. Static and dynamic load testing was carried out on the pit deck before the new lift was put into use.

The Result

By undertaking a phenomenal amount of forethought and planning, the teams on-site were able to approach the project holistically, allowing each decision to be reached as part of a whole.

“Getting the right cable at the right place and understanding the reasons why was a big thing that Adlib put across to us very well” explains Totus Engineering’s Contract Manager, Andrew O’Donnell.

Opening night smashed box office records at Hall for Cornwall during the theatre’s 2021 reopening. More importantly, 2022-23 season already looks very busy, with many West End productions visiting. Some of them include “The Ocean at the End of the Lane”, “The Mousetrap 70th Anniversary Tour”, or “The Commitments”, bringing the venue closer to its 300,000 visitors per year goal.

The audiences have absolutely loved the venue, they’ve been completely blown away. And one of the most satisfying things for me has been just to stand, after all the pain of a long capital project, and watch and listen to an audience coming in for the first time and see those reactions. Having someone leading that installation team who really, truly, understands how a live venue works is absolutely invaluable to making that happen.

Simon Crick, Director of Projects, Hall for Cornwall

Ready to talk about your project?

Read more client stories

Northern Star - Shakespeare North Playhouse
Read story
Arrow right
Tamworth Assembly Rooms Installation
Read story
Arrow right
Refurbishment at Liverpool Playhouse Theatre
Read story
Arrow right
Elf - A Christmas Spectacular - Arena Tour
Read story
Arrow right