The Playhouse's big red doors first opened in 1992 when director Pauline Ross managed to rescue two dilapidated buildings. The former school blocks had only narrowly escaped demolition a few years before when they were Grade II-listed. The Playhouse grew into an award-winning cultural project with charitable status. But a major challenge presented itself as the listed buildings fell into a pitiful state over the next 16 years. Funding of £4.6m was secured for a revamp through the Heritage Lottery Fund and other sources and The Playhouse re-launched on November 27, 2009.
The buildings are next to Derry's 400-year-old city walls, the largest state monument in Northern Ireland. More than 75 per Cent of the former school buildings have been restored, with the heritage features incorporated into the new elements.
The buildings are considered one of the best examples in Northern Ireland of how listed properties can be sympathetically restored and fused with modern design and have won numerous awards, including a British Urban Regeneration Award.