Toynbee Studios is Artsadmin's unique centre for the development and presentation of new work. The studios comprise a 280-seat theatre, five studio spaces and the Arts Bar & Café, all of which host performances and events throughout the year.
The programme aims to support artists producing new and innovative work in theatre, dance, live art, visual arts and mixed media. Toynbee Studios hosts a range of events, offering the chance to see works in development as well as touring and one-off events. There are also regular showcases, artists' talks and workshops.
Toynbee Studios is a lively venue with the busy Arts Bar & Café serving food throughout the day and open in the evenings for events.
Toynbee Studios was built in 1938 as part of the Toynbee Hall complex on Commercial Street in East London. Toynbee Hall, established in 1884 by Samuel and Henrietta Barnett, was created as a pioneering centre for social reform, known as the "working-man's university".
With funding from private donors including Sir John Gielgud and Bernard Shaw, the Studios were added to the complex in the 1930s and the building was inaugurated by Queen Mary in 1938. Toynbee Studios provided extensive spaces for art, dance and music, primarily for the use of young people and the local community. The National Youth Theatre staged their first performance at the theatre with their production of Henry V in 1956 and the building remained in heavy use until the 1970s.
Toynbee Studios had been empty for some years when in 1995 Artsadmin was invited by Toynbee Hall to take over the running of the building. Founded in 1979, Artsadmin is a unique producing organisation for contemporary artists working in theatre, dance, live art, visual arts, and mixed media, offering a free advisory service for artists, mentoring and development programmes and a number of bursary schemes. Artsadmin reinvented Toynbee Studios as a space in which artists could create and present work, providing office spaces for creative organizations as well as offering the theatre and studios as rehearsal spaces, and occasionally for performances.
In 2001 Artsadmin began a new phase of expansion with the lease purchase of Toynbee Studios and an extensive refurbishment of the whole building. This included updating and improving facilities throughout the building, renovation of the theatre, rehearsal and office spaces and the Arts Bar & Café, and the addition of a brand new rooftop dance studio, the Steve Whitson Studio.
While the renovation has allowed Artsadmin to develop the facilities provided, the spaces themselves still retain much of their unique character. The theatre contains original murals by Clive Gardiner, and the small Court Room with its oak panelled walls (one of the first specific juvenile courts in the country) is now used as a studio space, creating an intimate and unique space in which to create and watch performances.
Today Toynbee Studios is a unique centre for the development and presentation of new work, comprising the 280-seat theatre, five studio spaces and the Arts Bar & Café, all of which host performances and events throughout the year.