The Old Market celebrates a year of change under the ownership of Stomp’s Steve McNicholas & Luke Cresswell
Celebrating the first birthday of a building that first opened in 1826 may seem strange, but The Old Market’s recent transformation into ‘TOM’ certainly warrants special note. The building, completely refurbished for re-opening on 4 May 2011, has become one of Brighton and Hove’s best cultural venues. Formerly The Old Market Arts Centre (OMAC), The Old Market now boasts stunning interior features, a brand new seating rake and beautiful acoustics. It’s also gained a new nickname: TOM.
The changes have been brought about by Yes/No Productions, creators of Stomp, who bought the building in 2010. Since the early ’80s, co-directors Steve McNicholas and Luke Cresswell have used the space, originally for their legendary busking band Pookiesnackenburger.
“The space was pretty makeshift” remembers McNicholas, “and since then a restoration project in the early ’90s really shaped the way the building looks today, but as an arts venue there were still various shortcomings.” The first challenge, then, was to improve The Old Market’s facilities. “We wanted to transform the space,” explains McNicholas, “so that when you see a band it feels like a great rock venue and when you see theatre it feels like a great mid-scale studio theatre.” With the addition of new tiered seating, black drapes and lighting rigs amid the original wooden roofing beams, TOM now comfortably houses theatre productions, 500-capacity gigs, comedy nights and live events.
Now, then, the greater challenge is visibility within Brighton and Hove. “In all the years I’ve known the venue, I’ve found an awful lot of people don’t know where it is,” says McNicholas. “It’s all too easy to walk by Upper Market Street off Western Road and miss the turning!”
Word of mouth, however, seems to be making a significant impact, as does the appearance of big names, from comedian Daniel Kitson whose show sold out in four minutes, to the hotly-anticipated new incarnation of Blind Summit’s sublime puppet show The Table.
Open every day of May for Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe, this is the ideal time to discover TOM for yourself. To experience its full potential you’ll have to go more than once; for theatre (Naive Dance Masterclass), music (Nick Pynn), photography (Miniclick), comedy (Laughtermarket), film (Beach Party Animal), and for a drink (TOM’s Bar).
To view the full programme, watch videos or find out how to find the venue, visit their website.
The Old Market, 11a Upper Market Street, Hove,
BN3 1AS, 01273 201801, www.theoldmarket.com