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Sector: Education
Service: Building Surveying | Cost Consultancy | Project Management | Principal Designers

Norton Hill, a secondary school in Midsomer Norton, forms part of the Midsomer Norton Schools Partnership Academy Group. Hookway worked closely with the school to design and project manage the remodelling of a school gym to create a state of the art drama studio/theatre.

Setting the scene

As part of the brief the school requested that the new space be flexible enough to be used for multiple additional activities, including talks and presentations, exams, dance and exercise classes and even public performances.

A number of issues needed to be addressed to ensure the new space would fulfil the brief including, poor acoustics, the tired state of the interior walls and the high-level windows that made it difficult to control heating and ventilation. 

Hookway arranged for the walls to be clad in an attractive wood panelling, which dealt with the acoustics and created a stunning looking, modern interior. The old high-level windows were replaced with new automated ones linked to a weather station so that if oxygen levels get low, or it gets too hot, these will automatically open. Automated blackout blinds were also installed for when the space is being used as a theatre and a multi-use floor was laid so that it could be used for physical activities.

Cue sound and lighting

Once plans had been approved, a theatre specialist assisted Hookway with the design of the theatre lighting and audio package, with control panels to support theatre performances. A separate room, located just off the main space, was converted into a control room. This allows the sound and lighting to be managed for theatre performances and can also be used to teach backstage theatre control as a part of the GCSE and A level curriculum.

Flexibility – the name of the game

Because this is a multi-use space the school did not want a permanent stage, so Hookway provided a modular stage system which can be easily stacked and stored away when not in use. For additional flexibility they installed a floor-to-ceiling central folding partition, allowing the room to be split into two separate spaces for different uses. A huge roll-down projector screen was also installed so that the space can be used for meetings, talks and presentations. Finally, because the theatre will be used for public performances, Hookway incorporated a brand new separate box-office style entrance and lobby area.

A fine production 

Surveyor Tom Bishop who managed the project from start to finish said; “Our client had had some designs drawn up which exceeded the available budget and did not meet the requirements of all the stakeholders, so they approached us to redesign the space. The project was delivered on time and under budget, meeting all of our client’s requirements."

Steve Bridges, Head of Drama at Norton Hill school said; “Originally it was a miserable old school sports hall with yellow walls and a ‘white elephant’ vibe! Impossible to work in because of the echo and general shabbiness. It has now been transformed into a multi-purpose performance space with a professional stage lighting and sound rig. What a transformation!

Tom Bishop from Hookway listened very carefully to our requirements and then went about designing the new Norton Hill Arts Theatre. With cherry panelling and sound absorbent materials the main room has amazing acoustics, perfect for concerts and performances alike. A new box office built on the side of the theatre welcomes audiences to the new auditorium. The school will be planning to use the multi-functionality in a wide variety of creative ways.

Hookway were thoughtful, hard working and completely understanding of our performance demands - even when we said that we didn’t want a permanent stage!

Tom Bishop led us through the two-year process with a calm and professional demeanour. His contribution to the project was central to the completion of the building on-time (during the pandemic) and the design outcomes have suited our teaching and performance needs completely. A highly successful design and architectural project"

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“The new washroom facilities have significantly improved the internal environment and Hookway have been on-hand to efficiently project manage these works to our satisfaction.”

“Hookway came highly recommended and we are absolutely delighted with the project.”

“We were excited to hear that we had secured the necessary funds to refurbish our tired building and, with the excellent support of Hookway, we now have a school that is fit for the twenty-first century! ”