While The Lightbox is closed to the public and our team are working remotely, we've found ourselves missing being in our building quite a lot. Here, Director Marilyn Scott brings a new series of blogs dedicated to The Lightbox and its rich history.

Delve into the stories behind The Lightbox's architecture and its special features, before continuing.

As plans for The Lightbox were completed and contractors moved on site, I was initiated into all the phases of the build programme about to take place. Portacabins were moved in which would become a second home to the construction team for nearly two years.

Our own offices were at this time situated in Crown House just across Victoria Way from The Lightbox. We had moved from our rather cramped accommodation in Hollywood House to relative luxury the year before construction began. My own office window was on a level with the 'aeroplane on a stick' which graced Crown Square for many years.

We shared the accommodation in Crown House with the Woking Dance Festival led by its inspirational Director Eckhard Thiemann. It was a chance conversation over coffee which led to the official marking of 'breaking the ground' as construction began on site. We wanted to do something that involved the whole community which would illustrate the role The Lightbox wanted to fulfil after opening, but you are quite limited as to what you can do on an empty building site that would be a spectacle. Eckhard came up with the idea of a dance performance – professional dancers working with young and older people in a community dance performance.

We were lucky to obtain funding from The Arts Council which enabled a professional choreographer and professional dancers to create the piece and then work with a local school and with a local day centre for older people to create an intergenerational dance piece. We also worked with a small orchestra. Rehearsals took place and we planned for a night time performance as lights were an integral part of the piece. The dance piece was to be called 'Topos', a Greek word literally meaning 'place'.

On a cold, yet dry evening the ground-breaking ceremony, accompanied by the dance performance, took place. The guest of honour was Councillor Ian Johnson, then Mayor of Woking, with invited guests and members of the public who had booked tickets. The performance successfully encapsulated what The Lightbox was to mean to the town – slightly quirky, inclusive, something for everyone and, above all, showing what a great place for young people it was destined to be.


And so, the long process of building began, starting in the autumn of 2005 with a completion date of summer 2007. The steel structure began to emerge around a huge crane and, gradually, the floors emerged. The whole process was captured on film by Martin Bowman, then a Trustee of The Lightbox, now long-term volunteer.

Martin is an incredibly skilled photographer and used black and white film to record progress. The photographs are amongst some of the most treasured possessions in our archive, capturing the building and many of the individuals who helped build it.

The time eventually came for us to start thinking about the second major stage of construction when we would be celebrating the 'Topping Out' ceremony. It seemed highly appropriate to, again, commission a dance piece for the moment when the final piece of steel and final tile was added to the building. We decided to create a journey through the new but unfinished building lead by a troupe of dancers, almost as if they were creating a guided tour envisaging what the building might look like when completed.

Planning a topping out is always quite a high-risk endeavour, as of course you cannot predict exactly when the work will finish, you just have to hope the programme will finish to time. Predictably, the project ran about six months behind and the performance finale – due to take place in a completed Main Gallery, happened amid scaffolding which just made it even more atmospheric. The performance was, again, a collaboration between various community groups and, this time, Stopgap Dance, the disability dance group based in Farnham.

By the summer 2007, the building was nearing completion, Woking’s Story began to look like a real museum and the galleries prepared to take their first exhibitions in anticipation of opening.

For weekly updates from our Director, Marilyn Scott, browse our blog.