Specialists arrive from UK as refurbishments continue at Jersey's Opera House

  • ITV Channel reporter Katya Fowler tries her hand at refurbishing Jersey's Opera House with imitation gold leaf as work continues to bring the theatre back to its former glory

Experts from the UK are helping to bring Jersey's Opera House back to life.

The theatre has been closed since 2020, but the island's government hopes the building will reopen in early 2025 after it committed £11.5 million to a full restoration.

Gilders and designers have travelled from the UK to work on refurbishing the Grade II listed building.

Part of the project involves applying Dutch metal leaf to the ceiling's gildings, a brass alloy that is a similar but cheaper alternative to real gold.

The dutch metal leaf is applied with a water-based solution that acts as a glue before it is varnished and tidied up with a makeup brush. Credit: ITV Channel

Specialist Decorations Manager Natasha Beharrell has also found a cost-cutting way to apply the leaf by using a £12 makeup brush.

She said: "If this was real gold, we'd be very gently polishing it in but because it's Dutch, we need to iron out the creases so you need something more compact.

"It's been a really pleasurable experience."

The team aim to finish applying the leaf to the ceiling by the end of February.

Work will then move on to colouring the walls and marbling columns, as well as applying more gilding to the balconies.

Gilder Kevin Ruggeri said: "It's very exciting working on such a big project like this and being part of the restoration of a historic building."

Jersey Opera House: The Story So Far

❌ 2020: The Initial Closure

  • The Opera House was closed in March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Condition surveys found significant issues and risks with the building's infrastructure.

  • The building remained closed after COVID restrictions were lifted due to health and safety concerns.

🗂️ 2021: The Refurbishment Plan Submitted

  • A £2.2 million business case for the Opera House refurbishment was submitted.

  • The Fiscal Stimulus Oversight Group recommended the application which was approved.

  • The Economy Department approved a time extension for the scheme's completion to June 2022.

💷 2022: Funding the Works

  • Jersey's Treasury Minister allocated an additional £4.8 million to the project due to construction inflation.

  • The total cost to reopen the Opera House and complete all essential works so that it would not need to close again reached £11.5 million.

  • The capital cost of £11.5 million was included in the 2023 to 2026 Government Plan.

🏗️ 2023: Planning for Construction

  • The first planning application was approved in March 2023, which included:

    • Removing internal fixtures and fittings

    • Preparing the Opera House for the main phase of refurbishment

  • The second planning application was approved in October 2023, which outlined:

    • Meeting minimum health and safety requirements

    • Meeting disability criteria

    • Putting in place environmentally conscious measures

  • Ashbe Construction was appointed as the preferred contractor for both applications and work began.

❓ 2024: Where We Are Now

  • The major works have a completion date of 21 December 2024.

  • If there is no delay, the Grade II listed building will reopen by early 2025.

  • The refurbishment is now projected to cost £12.7 million.

  • The government says this is due to increased mechanical and electrical work.