About the project
The Lawson Field Theatre was included in an engineering assessment of Council’s administration centre and was assessed as being earthquake prone in 2012.
Council’s building team issued a notice to repair the theatre to meet seismic structural standards. This took effect in October 2016 and it has remained closed until the required work is completed.
In addition to the earthquake strengthening, the theatre upgrade will also include a new roof and exterior cladding, improved drainage, the installation of a firewall between council’s administration building, renovations to the bathrooms and new theatre features such as lighting and pulley systems.
Construction work to upgrade the Lawson Field Theatre started almost 35 years to the day since the theatre officially opened.
It was named after its key funder, the late Lawson Field. When Mr Field sold his aerial top-dressing business in 1979 he gifted proceeds of $280,000 to the community, with a vision to build a theatre that would form a cultural heart for a wider commercial heart of Gisborne.
Gisborne’s Opera House was demolished in 1968 and the War Memorial Theatre was considered too large for small productions, so the trustees, in collaboration with the Gisborne City Council and local theatre groups, agreed to use the funds to establish the Lawson Field Theatre.
The theatre cost $800,000 to build and was officially opened on 2 July 1983 by Lawson Field’s daughter Prue Chrisp on (Mr Field died in 1981). Other funders included The Williams Family Trusts, Winifred Lysnar Trust as well as central government and local theatre groups.
The first show held there was a Unity Theatre’s production of Alan Ayckbourne’s Sisterly Feelings, directed by Jack Roderick.
The theatre’s design and facilities made it ideal for small to medium-sized community events, including theatre performances, workshops, conferences, seminars and social functions.
The Rose Room and balcony was built in 1990 and the facility was well used by the community in the decades that followed.