You are here

William Simpson – Associate Director of Kirwin & Simpson

William Simpson – Associate Director of Kirwin & Simpson

Kirwin & Simpson is one of the world’s leading auditorium seating suppliers. As a 4th generation family business they have been providing first class auditorium seating for the entertainment industry since 1945. Kirwin & Simpson have been tasked with designing and manufacturing the new seating for both the Princess Anne Theatre and new Shaw Theatre in 195 Piccadilly. Associate Director William Simpson shares more about their fascinating history and their approach to manufacturing our new seating.

This particular project really stood out to us because of the emphasis on recycling and eco-friendly materials. All of our projects are bespoke but this gave us the opportunity to take the design to the next level.

I personally have been working for the company since 2003 and undertaken most roles in my time. I also have a degree in Furniture Design & Manufacture that has further expanded my knowledge of the various phases that happen.  I now specialise in consulting the client on everything they need to know about their seating and being their direct contact throughout the process.

Recycling has always been part of our ethos. Towards the end of the Second World War, founder Bernard Simpson was running a factory which had been commandeered for the war effort, making parachutes. During a lunchtime conversation with the local cinema manager it came to light that the seats in the cinema were in a terrible state and due to rationing there wasn’t any fabric available to repair them. Bernard mentioned that with a bit of enterprise the small parachute cut offs could be sewn together and used to upholster the chairs. From that conversation Kirwin & Simpson has grown into a premier worldwide theatre seating supplier (including TheatreSquared, Arkansas, USA, pictured left).

How you are involved in the BAFTA 195 Piccadilly redevelopment project and what stage you are at?

We were tasked with designing and manufacturing new chairs for both auditoria. In the Princess Anne Theatre, BAFTA were very keen for us to recycle the existing seat components. With this in mind we are reusing major components from the backs, arms and tipping mechanisms of the original seats and have built a new design around these recycled parts. We are currently producing the final set of chair samples for the Princess Anne Theatre and new screening room. These chairs will then be signed off by BAFTA before they are put into production for a late June installation.

Describe how you came up with new design?

Recycling as many of the existing components as possible has been one of the key factors in the design process. Where recycled parts aren’t appropriate we are using as many eco-friendly materials as we can. For example, in the Princess Anne Theatre we are looking at using a fabric that is made from wild flax and has been used in textiles for thousands of years thanks to its strong, long and smooth fibres found inside the stem of the plant. The fibre is spun into a 75/25 wool flax blend.

The design for both chairs has been achieved through consultation with BAFTA and the years of experience we have designing seating. Drawings and renders were issued throughout for the BAFTA and architect teams to comment on, allowing the exact chairs to be designed for their brief.

How is your project sustainable?

The project is sustainable as we are recycling some of the core chair components and for any new materials we have sourced we have tried to use the most eco-friendly materials available, for instance the new wood used is all FSC approved. The materials that we are not reusing from the existing chairs are all responsibly disposed of.

Do you have an interesting fact about your work or the 195 Piccadilly project?

There will be 34 people from Kirwin & Simpson involved in this project, from the initial concept to delivery and installation of the chairs.

What is your favourite film?

Either of the Bad Boys films, Bad Boys or Bad Boys II.

What is your favourite TV show?

Standout programs for me recently were Money Heist, Ozark and Stranger Things.

What is your favourite video game?

It has been a long time since I have played a video game but I did used to play FIFA when I was at school.