Northampton Filmhouse to reopen next week, following discovery of RAAC at Royal & Derngate
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Following the unfortunate discovery of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in the foyers at the Royal & Derngate, an update has been issued.
However, it has now been announced that the Filmhouse can reopen next Monday (September 18), as access to the space has been adapted.
The Royal & Derngate’s statement reads: “Following the discovery of the presence of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in our foyers last week, and, in line with recent government health and safety guidance around this material, we had to close our venue with immediate effect.
“We are working tirelessly with our landlords and a team of experts to find a way for our audiences to safely return as soon as possible.
“We are delighted to confirm that with support from local businesses we will be able to reopen our Northampton Filmhouse from Monday 18th September. The access to these spaces has been adapted so as not to require entry to the main theatre building.
“The film programme will start with Kenneth Branagh’s A Haunting in Venice, which will be going on sale this Wednesday. Additional film programming for next week will be confirmed shortly.
“Many of our team will also be able to return to our administration block and back of house areas safely this week. A temporary in-person Box Office, situated in John Franklin's bar, will re-open from 12 noon tomorrow (Tuesday, September 12).
“We’re incredibly grateful to our local community for the support that we have received so far that has enabled us to make these initial steps. We encourage those that are able to do so, to show their further support by attending a screening at the Filmhouse in the coming weeks.
“We continue to work with our surveyors on what will be required before reopening other spaces and thank all ticket-buyers for their patience while we do so. We will update audiences as soon as we are able.”
What else do we know about Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) and where it has been discovered across Northampton?
The material is described as a “lightweight form of concrete” and was used in the construction of public buildings between the 1950s and 1970s. However, it is made in a way that makes it “much weaker” than traditional concrete, says the Standing Committee on Structural Safety.
The Department for Education has been providing guidance and funding to manage the potential risks of RAAC since 2018, but new cases have made them “less confident” that buildings containing the material should remain open without extra safety measures in place.
The main concern for the government has been educational settings – with the first identified school in the town, Northampton International Academy, having to close the top floor of its building. This includes 18 classrooms, the sixth form area and the staff room.
It has most recently been announced that Moulton Primary School also has RAAC in the roof of one of its buildings, following survey work late last week. The building in question houses six classrooms, which means alternative arrangements will need to be made for around 180 children.
Following the news of the discovery of RAAC in buildings, the Department for Education’s X account has provided background on the matter and said: “In cases as recent as August, buildings containing the material have failed unexpectedly, requiring decisive action in order to keep staff and pupils safe.”