£1 Million Gift from the Oglesby Charitable Trust Supports the Design of A Brand-New Pop-Up Theatre by Haworth Tompkins



An incredible gift of £1 million given to The Royal Exchange Theatre by The Oglesby Charitable Trust enables the development of THE DEN, a new pop-up theatre space designed by award-winning architects Haworth Tompkins. THE DEN is part of the theatre’s newest strand of work LOCAL EXCHANGE which makes space to explore how the relationship between people, places and artists can shape the future work that the Royal Exchange Theatre makes.

  • An incredible £1 million gift from The Oglesby Charitable Trust has enabled the development of THE DEN and secured the longevity of LOCAL EXCHANGE. This generous gift is reflective of the long relationship between the Oglesby family and the Theatre.
  • THE DEN is a brand-new pop-up theatre for Greater Manchester communities. It has been designed as an informal space for residents to make and share theatre and to see work from the Royal Exchange. The team at Haworth Tompkins – including Steve Tompkins and Roger Watts, along with Chris Wise (Expedition) and Charley Brentnall (Xylotek) have found inspiration in both the Exchange’s Module theatre, how it connects artists and audiences and the secure, imaginative space of a child’s den.
  • LOCAL EXCHANGE is a pioneering, long-term and ambitious series of residencies designed to reframe the way the Royal Exchange makes work with, by and for the people of Greater Manchester. It has been developed to create long-lasting and sustainable relationships between communities and artists.

The Royal Exchange Theatre and the Oglesby family share a passion for progressing the arts and encouraging original creative thinking. The family have long supported the work of the theatre not only through generous gifts and sponsorship but also as audience members, spokespeople and champions. The substantial gift of £1 million supports the LOCAL EXCHANGE programme and enables the Theatre to build THE DEN, a brand-new travelling theatre space.

Michael Oglesby and Kate Vokes, Trustees of the Oglesby Charitable Trust said…

Philanthropic gifts can often provide the space to innovate and take risks, we have found that this results in some truly ground-breaking projects with real and lasting impact. We were incredibly impressed by the breadth and depth of LOCAL EXCHANGE as an original and insightful way to develop sustained relationships with the communities of Greater Manchester. As part of this THE DEN felt like a ground-breaking design – a truly unique theatre space that would respond to the needs of the residents using it. We are delighted to support the growth of this very exciting project for Greater Manchester.

Designed with the award-winning architectural studio Haworth Tompkins THE DEN is a unique pop-up theatre space that will visit areas of Greater Manchester as part of LOCAL EXCHANGE. Sitting within a larger found space, it is designed to help reimagine an existing local building. It is a space where communities can come to share, learn and make their own work, and where the work of the Royal Exchange can be performed outside of the city centre.

The development of this new pop-up theatre has been inspired by the idea of de-growth. It is a sustainable space which creates the maximum amount of opportunity for creativity whilst always considering the minimum environmental impact. With a stripped back design this new theatre space will honour the essence of the found building, aiming for a genuine environmental and social equity between both spaces. With co-operation at its heart THE DEN will be constructed and operated with the residents of each community, they will help to raise the roof of this unique theatre space, become its ushers, its box office, its technical team and its audience.

Roger Watts, Director at Haworth Tompkins said…

We’re so pleased to be working with the Royal Exchange Theatre on this exciting and crucially important project. What attracted us to become involved was the chance to make architecture for our changing times: where communities are under pressure; where energy and resources are precious and where finding common ground across barriers of difference is essential. As architects, engineers, designers and theatre makers, we hope our team can rise to the challenge of creating a very-low carbon, super-lightweight, 180 seat portable auditorium that is capable of being built and dismantled by its audience.

THE DEN is a fundamental part of a much bigger programme of work known as LOCAL EXCHANGE, a series of bespoke, long-term residencies that take place across the Greater Manchester boroughs. Each residency will last for three years and will be designed to respond to the cultural ambitions of each specific community. The project begins with the development of relationships with local partners such as Councils, Housing Associations and Arts Organisations and the formation of a local ambassador group that will work closely with the Exchange throughout the residency. LOCAL EXCHANGE continues the Theatre’s commitment to working with its audiences and communities in new ways and securing long-term relationships with sustainability at their centre.

Steve Freeman, Executive Director of the Royal Exchange Theatre said…

LOCAL EXCHANGE is an ambitious new strand of our programme here at the Exchange and THE DEN is an exciting and fundamental aspect of this work. We are delighted to have the support of the Oglesby Charitable Trust to ensure the longevity of this work and to work with cutting-edge architects Haworth Tompkins to design a unique and inspiring new pop-up theatre for Manchester. We hope that Local Exchange creates the space for a conversation with the people of Greater Manchester about what the future of theatre looks like for us all. That it will provide the building-blocks to reimagine the relationship between the places we make our work and the artists and people we make it with and for.

THE DEN will make its first appearance in Tameside this August in Stalybridge Civic Hall and in 2020 it will be resident in Spinners Mill in Leigh.