Theatre looks to be hub of artistic life

Ysella Griffin (Lecturer), Jonathan Goodwin (Artistic Director), Paula Watkins and Paul Tilbrook (Technical Manager) at The Hub. Photo Steve Robards
Ysella Griffin (Lecturer), Jonathan Goodwin (Artistic Director), Paula Watkins and Paul Tilbrook (Technical Manager) at The Hub. Photo Steve Robards

Every night of the week noise, sound and light emit from The Hub in Haywards Heath yet what goes on inside this elusive building is still a mystery to many people.

The Hub is Mid Sussex’s secret jewel - a theatre the existence of which is not universally known but which is finally blossoming to become the crowning glory of the area’s artistic scene.

Lesley Manville, patron of The Hub theatre in Haywards Heath

Lesley Manville, patron of The Hub theatre in Haywards Heath

Like its patron, the actress Lesley Manville who starred in the recent five-part BBC drama Mayday, The Hub has been quietly getting on with its job without fanfare or ceremony.

Until now it has shied away from the spotlight, hidden as it has been behind not only the houses in Turners Mill Road and Harlands Road but also behind the building site that has been Central Sussex College.

Now, with the builders’ hoardings removed it is ready to shrug off its Cinderella rags and burst forth as the fully rounded artistic centre that it promises to be.

Artistic director Jonathan Goodwin said: “The final piece of the jigsaw that prevented people from seeing The Hub as a proper venue is now in place at last and we are all delighted.”

The Hub is now entering its fourth year on the Mid Sussex landscape. It was built in the first phase of the £30million redevelopment of the Central Sussex College campus that, along with its second phase, is now all but complete. However, in order to function while the second phase took place, The Hub had to compromise with an area intended as an art classroom passing as its rather cold and unwelcoming ‘foyer’.

All is very different now with the theatre having gone through a 180-degree reconfiguration to its rightful place with its purpose-built domed foyer at the front of the prestigious new education complex.

With an adjacent cafe area, the theatre is now fit for purpose as a venue for a variety of artistic ventures which Jonathan hopes will be drawn to its state-of-the-art facilities.

“The Hub is going to be much more of a proper venue now,” he said. “People have never really taken it completely seriously but we are now in our fourth year and The Hub is being used every night of the week.”

Zumba classes take place in its rehearsal rooms and the fast-establishing Gielgud Academy of Performing Arts holds classes every day in its large, mirrored studio with top professional dancers among its teaching staff.

Out of college hours, the Sussex Actors Studio teaches theatre skills to maturing actors looking to build on their experience. SAS has also attracted the likes of War Horse puppeteers, fight directors from the National Theatre and Justin Chadwick, director of the soon-to-be released film Long Walk to Freedom, the biography of Nelson Mandela.

All in all, The Hub is stamping its authority on the artistic landscape of Mid Sussex and is well placed to build on its growing reputation.

Jonathan added: “What we have got here is really exciting; it is what we have been working towards for a long time and we hope the people of Mid Sussex will be thrilled with the new facilities now available to them.”

The Hub’s staff are now embarking on an outreach programme of engagement with local schools to encourage them to use its facilities, including its 260-seat auditorium, emphasising their quality and accessibility compared to those farther afield that require costly transport. Its extensive car parking is another plus.

“We want the young people in the area to see this as their performing arts space and us as being a real hub, which we haven’t been properly before.”

Jonathan’s students are testament to the quality of work being done at The Hub. Case in point is former student Alex Packer who is now bringing his own adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest to The Hub on May 1. Under Alex’s direction the play ‘Tiny Tempest’ is described as Shakespeare’s ‘fantastical tale of magic, murder and monsters retold in an explosive new adaptation with live music and songs’.

During the same week, ‘The Girl with no Heart’ plays on April 29, inspired by Japanese culture and the true events in the lives of the children of the Hiroshima and Nagosaki atomic bombs. The play received five-star reviews at last year’s Edinburgh Festival.

For more information about the shows and what is happening at The Hub visit or ring the Box Office on 01444 446840. Leaflets are also available at various outlets.