Reputed to be one of the finest small theatres in England, the Merlin Theatre opened in 1969 and became a leading innovator in participatory theatre, contributing to Sheffield's rich cultural life. However by the time Ruskin Mill Land trust acquired it in 2004, the theatre had fallen on hard times. In 2008 a burst water pipe caused extensive damage and the theatre had to close.

A substantial grant from the Education Funding Agency and support from Garfield Weston Foundation and the Foyle Foundation enabled us to completely renovate the Merlin Theatre and it reopened in 2015, providing a centre for Ruskin Mill Trust's pioneering educational work, music and drama in a world class setting. This grows out of a long and successful tradition for powerful and relevant shows such as “Sterling Silver” which was written and performed by Freeman College students and won regional acclaim for its pioneering approach to Sheffield history. Performing arts are particularly valuable for helping young people with autism develop attainment, confidence and self-esteem.