From education to employment

Construction students from London South East College begin refurbishment of historic theatre

A much-needed refurbishment of the Bromley Little Theatre, situated close to the town centre, has finally got underway this week with the help of a group of budding bricklayers and carpenters from London South East Colleges’ Bromley Campus.

The team have been hand-picked to take part in the project that is estimated to take around a month’s worth of hard graft and commitment.

This week, the six students and their new boss Alan Dalton, a professional builder and full-time lead mentor for Volunteer It Yourself (VIY), have set about clearing away damaged plaster, brickwork and old floorboards, and putting into position sturdy timber frames ready for new walls and floors to be installed next week.

VIY combines volunteering and DIY by challenging young people to learn a trade and building skills, on the job, by helping to renovate and repair community buildings. The project to give the old theatre a makeover is the culmination of three months of planning and cooperation between the College’s Work Experience Team, VIY and the Theatre’s Board of Trustees.

Before work could start, Alan gave our students a site induction and a full day of power tool tuition. All students are given health and safety training at the College and this meant knuckling down to the serious business of renovations immediately on day two.

Alan says: “The guys have started eagerly and we are nicely on schedule to convert the Theatre’s lower floor into swish new changing rooms and wardrobe areas. This will entail a number of different disciplines including carpentry, bricklaying, plastering, dry lining and re-pointing. There is much to do and the students will pick up lots of applied skills as well as receiving first-hand experience of working on a real construction site.”

Carpentry student, Ellis Ward, 17, from Lewisham has recently completed the first stage of his Career Advantage Programme at the College and has also won an award for excellent attendance on-course. He is buzzing with enthusiasm for the project and thoroughly enjoying the experience so far.

He says: “I started my level 1 course last September and I’m already working on a real site project. This is pretty massive to me and I’m very proud to be a member of this team. I’ve wanted to be a carpenter since being at school and I know I have much to do before I can finally call myself a pro. I enjoy hard work and getting my hands dirty and can’t wait to stand back from it all and admire what we have achieved here. The owners are going to love it!”

Keith Jeremiah is the Chair of the Board of Trustees and is coordinating the Theatre’s fundraising activities.

He says: “The building itself was built c1870s and is a former Coop bakery. It has been used as a theatre since around 1938 and served the community very well, including through a very difficult period during WW2. It thoroughly deserves the makeover it is getting and I’m delighted that these young people have kindly devoted their time and efforts to help us achieve that.”

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