About Us

A unique, 500 seater theatre for the entire community, by the community


Art Theatre, Jodrell Street, New Mills, HIGH PEAK, Derbyshire, SK22 3HJ 01663 743461 info@arttheatre.co.uk


The mission of New Mills Art Theatre Limited is to be a volunteer-based organisation promoting quality community theatre experiences for the people of New Mills and High Peak District by providing educational opportunities and entertainment in the theatrical arts.

The Art Theatre strives to:

  • Remain a volunteer based organisation representative of all segments of our community
  • Increase awareness of community theatre and its benefits
  • Expand quality programming
  • Improve the theatre facility in order to enhance production quality and better support ancillary activities such as rehearsal and workshops
  • Maintain strong management of the theatre
  • Maintain financial stability
  • Ensure the long-term financial integrity of the theatre by raising sufficient funds to improve the building and create an endowment to support its operation

Company Overview

The Art Theatre, formally known as New Mills Empire and Hippodrome (1911) and also The Art Picture Playhouse (1922) was built in June 1911 to bring amateur theatre to New Mills town, and Districts throughout the High Peak in Derbyshire.

The Art Theatre runs weekly with a variety of productions throughout the year.

Throughout its long history, the Art Theatre has benefited from a wonderful outpouring of community support. In return, the Theatre has offered enriching entertainment and educational opportunities for the residents of New Mills and District.

A Community Stage

Approximately 15,000 patrons attended the 18 main stage performances during the 2017-2018 season.  The Art Theatre provides performance and educational activities through Friends of the Art Theatre (FOAT) for youth age primary school through secondary school, including main stage performances during two weeks in January and February, as well as classes and workshops for youth throughout the year.

The Art Theatre also serves as an affordable resource for stagecraft, scripts, costumes and related advice for schools, community groups and businesses, other theatres and area arts organisations.

Volunteers Essential to Art Theatre

Since the theatre was open in 1911, it has always been volunteer driven.  Approximately 70 volunteers play key roles in all operational facets of the organisation – productions, maintenance, administrative.  Last season, we anticipate volunteers contributed close to 7,500 hours. The Art Theatre is reliant on its volunteer force to remain viable and vital.

Economic Impact

Income is earned from theatre hire, activities for generating funds such as bar, confectionery, ice cream and donations. All funds are reinvested into operations. New sources of revenue, in particular through community partnerships and granting opportunities, are currently being studied and pursued to assure the on-going financial viability of New Mills Art Theatre. The fiscal year runs April through March. In addition to the annual operating budget, an endowment fund provided by New Mills Amateur Operatic Dramatic Society (NMAODS) and Friends of Art Theatre (FOAT) – exists to support its own operations and investment in New Mills Art Theatre’s future artistic endeavours into perpetuity.



The story of the Art Theatre is remarkable to say the least. It begins when the first sod was cut for the foundations of the New Mills Empire and Hippodrome in March 1911 and the grand opening was on Saturday June 24th 1911.

The entertainment arranged for the opening afternoon included two films, Into the Jaws of Death and The Cleaning of Scroggins House plus songs by Little Ivy Francis, Miss Hilda Newsome, Miss Marie Francis and Mr Matt Ray and that was only in the afternoon!

David Macintosh Taylor was the first lessee/manager. He was a flamboyant character and great showman. Some of the acts he booked for the Theatre were both unusual and entertaining, for example two young ladies who performed many feats such as knitting, eating bananas and blowing a post horn whilst submerged in a tank of water on the stage. As far as we know, this has not been tried at the Art Theatre since.

David Taylor finally bought the theatre after nine years as manager, but two days later he sold it to Messrs. Walters and Law on November 22nd 1920.

Messrs Walters and Law closed the theatre on Saturday April 9th 1921, for “entire reconstruction, decoration and general improvements”. These alterations resulted in the upper story being built with a lounge, which is now the theatre licensed bar, and originally this had an exquisite marble fireplace which can still be seen to this day in the foyer. A new circle was also erected with a box at either side. Many more alterations were made and this formed the basis of the theatre we see to this day.

The doors were opened once more on August 29th 1921, the first night of the life of The Art Picture Playhouse.

Again a mixture of cine and live performance were produced and The Art Picture Playhouse went from strength to strength showing films, plays, pantomimes and even grand opera.

A further change of ownership came about on April 4th 1922, and with it a change of management and policy – more stage shows.

This continued with huge success until Sailor Beware in 1959 when disaster struck! On March 21st 1959, the Sheffield Theatre Cinema Company closed the doors of the Art Theatre and left the Operatics homeless.

From now onwards, the story of the Art Theatre is also the story of the Amateurs, and although they have always been closely connected, the remainder of this story proves the dedication of a group of people with one aim. This dedication has never disappeared.

A Special General Meeting was held on April 7th 1959 to explore the possibilities of leasing or even buying the theatre, which remained closed all summer.

On September 26th 1959 the Art Theatre re-opened. The Society had taken a two year tenancy, worked solidly seven days a week for ten weeks, then opened a spick and span theatre once again to entertain. The main problem, as always, was finance but thanks to the regular hard workers and individual fund raising efforts, in April 1961 the Art Theatre was leased for a further two years.

In 1966 the memorable decision to buy the Art Theatre was taken and the “Buy a Brick” scheme was launched. Buy a brick for £1.00, and the bricks at the front of the Theatre were painted out to show the progress. By the end of the last night of the November show Perchance to Dream, the target of £1000.00 was short by £20.00.

The President made a speech from the stage and as he was speaking, members of the audience called out “here’s a pound”, “here’s another”, the atmosphere was electric and when the President announced “we’ve done it” the place erupted.

Since then, with the inevitable ups and downs of any organisation, the Society has gone from strength to strength. Improvements and alterations have been made to both front of house and backstage. Glasses of sherry replaced cups of tea and eventually a full bar was installed which proved both a social and financial asset.

Damp proofing, rewiring, re-organised seating and a new heating system have all benefited the fabric of the building and the comfort of our audiences.

In 1980 Miss Claire Ferraby, a designer from London, was commissioned to present a set of designs for the re-decoration of the theatre in keeping with its lovely Edwardian character. The Executive Committee decided not to do a Spring Show in 1984 but to concentrate on damp proofing the walls and altering the seating arrangements prior to starting on the redecoration scheme. The latter was completed in the summer of 1985 by John Pearce & Sons (Decorators) of Ashton-Under-Lyne.

This short history was written in 1985 and, of course the main scheme to refurbish the Theatre Auditorium was completed to the standard we see today.

Since then several major schemes have been carried out not least the battle to beat dry rot which meant replacing the whole of the auditorium floor.

Theatre Regeneration & Improvements

The Board of Trustees has produced a plan detailing Stage and Technical Engineering Requirements, and Building Improvements.  Within the Theatre, Stage rigging systems need upgrading and improvements need to be made to the structure, Orchestra Pit and building fabric.  The total cost of these works is £800,000.

Art Theatre | Jodrell Street | New Mills | High Peak | SK22 3HJ