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Riccarton Players aim to restore Mill Theatre

A Christchurch theatre company needs to raise at least $1 million to restore the Mill Theatre in Addington.

Mill Theatre_Graeden Meek
Photo: Graeden Meek

The theatre was badly damaged in the February 2011 earthquakes and closed to the public, and four years on the Riccarton Players are still performing in other halls, theatres, and spaces across the city.

The company is in negotiations with the Christchurch City Council to restore the building, which has been given a Heritage Incentive Grant of $885,000, but millions are needed for its full restoration.

Riccarton Players president Giles Wood said the intention was to “rebuild and restore” the building rather than move into a new premise.

On top of damage to the building, the theatre has lost all power, water and drainage.

Woods said the estimated budget for restoration did not include the entire mill.

Doug Clarke, Riccarton Players secretary and long-time figure at the Mill Theatre, was “gutted” about the building’s condition, but optimistic about its future.

The historic 19th century flour mill has been home to the Mill Theatre since 1983. Originally, it started out as an open space that Clarke described as “cold as buggery; no heating, nothing”.

Clarke has performed, written, directed and fulfilled numerous roles throughout the years within the theatre and described himself as “part of the furniture”.

Since 2011, Riccarton Players have performed in schools and theatres, including Hagley Theatre Company, which emerged unscathed after the February, 2011 earthquakes.

Riccarton Players will perform at least seven shows this year. The company will release Ladies for Hire, with 10 performances beginning Friday March 6. The show will run until March 15.

_By Graeden Meek