Scottish Opera reveals plans for new home

31 Oct 2023

Scottish Opera's plans for its new location on a former industrial estate have been released.

The regeneration project, currently in the consultation stages, will see the Glasgow-based company relocate its head office from the city's Charing Cross area to new premises on Spiers Wharf.

The new premises will sit between the existing Edington Street production studios and the canal towpath. Plans for the mixed-use development will incorporate rehearsal and performance spaces as well as film facilities, office and production space and two student accommodation blocks.

Scottish Opera’s new home will include an education and outreach hub with adaptable performance spaces that can function as a recording studio.

The consultation proposal states that the submitted development plans would “help to secure Scottish Opera’s presence within Glasgow for the next 60-plus years by rationalising and consolidating three of our current scattered five premises under one roof to demonstrate measurable economic, business, and artistic advantage”. 

Scottish Opera will submit its complete planning application in early 2024, with construction expected to begin in early 2025.

Kilmarnock boosts culture with Levelling Up cash

31 Oct 2023

Plans to regenerate cultural assets in Kilmarnock have been revealed using some of the £20m awarded to it from the government's second round of Levelling Up funding earlier this year.

A key grant beneficiary will be the Palace Theatre and Grand Hall, which will undergo extensive refurbishment. The upgraded building will offer improved accessibility, dining areas, space to host a youth theatre company and a new entrance.

Anneke Freel, Chief Officer East Ayrshire Leisure Trust, said: “This is such an exciting project for Kilmarnock and for Ayrshire that will allow us to create a theatre and concert hall that will attract high-profile performers and make performing arts more accessible to local people.”

Funds will also be used to create a “travel corridor” to link the Palace Theatre, Grand Hall and the Dick Institute with a “cultural parkland” incorporating a natural amphitheatre with a seating capacity of up to 150 people. 

Councillor Douglas Reid, Leader of East Ayrshire Council, said: “We are all tremendously excited by this project - this is the stuff dreams are made of! This investment in our cultural offering will bring significant economic, social and environmental benefits to East Ayrshire.”

Easter opening date for £27m Perth Museum

25 Oct 2023

A new museum in Perth costing £27m has been given an official opening date for 2024.

Perth Museum will open after a multi-million-pound refurbishment of the former city hall over Easter weekend next year.

Partially funded by £10m of UK Government investment through the Tay Cities Deal and by Perth and Kinross Council, the museum will showcase Perth’s place in ancient and modern Scotland as the nation’s first capital.

Its collection will include the Stone of Destiny, used in King Charles's coronation, and a sword belonging to Bonnie Prince Charlie, which returns to Scotland for the first time since being made in Perth in 1739.

Councillor Grant Laing, Leader of Perth and Kinross Council, said: “Perth Museum will be a landmark attraction that brings Scotland’s history to life and is the culmination of our long-term cultural regeneration vision for Perth.

“It will significantly increase visitors from across the UK and internationally. It has created new skills and employment opportunities, and it will ignite our sense of civic pride in our beautiful and historic city.”

Plans for Eastbourne arts centre revealed

24 Oct 2023

Proposals for a new arts, education and cultural centre sited on a 19th Century dairy farm in the South Downs have been announced. 

The project, called Black Robin Farm, is part of a partnership between the contemporary art gallery Towner Eastbourne and Eastbourne Borough Council, with a design by architects Feilden Fowles recently submitted for planning approval.

The submission follows Eastbourne Borough Council's successful £19.8m funding bid to the government's Levelling Up Fund. It is hoped that Black Robin Farm will draw 100,000 visitors annually within five years, helping to boost Eastbourne’s economy. 

Working with East Sussex College Group, Towner Eastbourne will use the site to offer qualifications and skills training for young adults to support career development in the creative, leisure and tourism sectors. It also plans to provide artist opportunities through commissions, residencies, showcasing and workspace.

If planning permission is granted, the next steps for the project will be working with stakeholders and communities over the next four years. 

Joe Hill, CEO and Director of Towner Eastbourne said: ”Our ambition is to ensure genuinely inclusive access to art and culture through artist commissions and other professional development opportunities, skills development initiatives and creative engagement programmes for children and adults, especially those from Eastbourne's most disadvantaged communities.

“Our vision is to change lives through high-quality creative and cultural experiences that raise aspirations, change career directions and improve life outcomes."

Wirral Council shares borough of culture plans

23 Oct 2023

Wirral Council has revealed its plans for the borough’s stint as Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture next year.

Planned events include a permanent public art project in East Wirral, an arts festival in New Brighton and activities carried out by libraries, the Floral Pavillion and Williamson Art Gallery.

A statement from the council says the events “should be a celebration of Wirral people and places and a showcase for its creative communities and the power of culture and heritage in regeneration”.

The council is investing £800,000 in the programme of events, with £200,000 coming from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority, alongside funding from the government’s UK Shared Prosperity Fund and Town Deal funds.

Event management and production costs are being outsourced following a £620,000 cut to the council’s budget. Local press has reported those who are receiving grants have been encouraged to get additional funding to “enhance delivery and outcomes”. 

A different Liverpool borough hosts the city region’s borough of culture programme each year. The last time Wirral staged the event was in 2019, while this year’s host is St Helens.

Somerset Council halts Octagon Theatre regeneration 

10 Oct 2023

Somerset Council has put a £30m project to remodel the Octagon Theatre in Yeovil on hold due to rising costs.

At an executive committee meeting on 4 October, the council acknowledged that the current business case for the theatre's regeneration could "no longer be met" and "a revised business case would be necessary".

Councillors promised to “explore all the options” for the venue's future, which has been closed since April, with £1.77m already spent on preparatory works.

Plans to turn Octagon Theatre into Somerset’s ‘flagship arts venue’ were initially expected to cost £23m, with a grant from Arts Council England providing £10m and the remainder due to come from external borrowing.

When the project went out to formal tender in January 2023, the estimated cost had risen to £30.7m. A recent report from the council, which faces a predicted overspend of £26.1m this financial year, found increasing interest rates made the redevelopment “unaffordable”, with repayments expected to reach £1m annually. 

Council officers have been instructed to undertake an options appraisal, in partnership with the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England (ACE), to investigate possible plans for the future of the site and create an updated business plan. 

One of the possibilities suggested by the report, would be a cheaper renovation estimated by contractors at £9m. However, this would mean the £10m grant from ACE for the initially approved project would be pulled.

Another possibility is reopening the theatre unchanged, a move that councillors warned could have a long-term negative impact on the arts in Yeovil.

Chris Hall, the council’s Executive Director for Communities, said all the options would be put before the executive committee “as soon as is reasonably and practically possible”.

First look at £132m revamp of Bristol Beacon

Bristol Beacon main auditorium under renovation in September 2023
10 Oct 2023

Images have been released of Bristol Beacon during the final stages of its £132m renovation, before the concert hall reopens in November.

Historic London venue to revert to a theatre

26 Sep 2023

A Grade-II listed building on London’s Shaftesbury Avenue is set to be turned from an Odeon cinema back into a theatre.

The building first opened in 1931, with a capacity of 1,462 people across three levels and has hosted acts including the Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana.

Architecture and design studio SPPARC has been asked to plan the redevelopment of the building by real estate firm Yoo Capital, which also hired the firm to work on the redevelopment of the Olympia exhibition venue, set to open in 2025.

Plans for the revamped Shaftesbury Avenue venue include a hotel and dining facilities. Entertainment group Cirque du Soleil is considering the venue for its first permanent home in London, Building Design reported.

Yoo Capital said it had begun a consultation with local stakeholders ahead of submitting a planning application to Camden Council. The company did not give an estimated date for the submission.

Council approves ‘urgent’ repairs to Blackpool Grand Theatre 

20 Sep 2023

Planners have given the go-ahead for the Grand Theatre in Blackpool to undergo “urgent” repairs after it was discovered that rainwater had leaked through parts of the roof earlier this year.

The work on the grade-II listed building is expected to cost half a million pounds and be completed by spring 2024. It is hoped that a funding bid to Arts Council England will help finance the project.

Blackpool Council said repairs were "urgently required” to make the theatre watertight but added that work "would not affect the character or significance" of the building.

In a submission supporting the plans, the Theatres Trust cautioned that the venue's future could be in question without the intervention.

It described the theatre, which opened in 1894, as “one of the finest works of renowned theatre architect Frank Matcham” and said that the renovations would “address deficiencies with the building which, if left unresolved, would result in continued deterioration and compromise the building’s significance as well as its ability to operate”.

The Trust added: “It is an important and valued cultural venue for Blackpool, hosting a busy programme which both meets the needs of local people as well as contributing to Blackpool's visitor offer.

"Therefore, efforts to support its ongoing conservation and operations are to be supported."

Telford Theatre closes for two years in levelling-up renewal

13 Sep 2023

Telford Theatre will close for a two-year refurbishment, costing £15.5m, to be funded by the government's levelling-up scheme.

The building is due to shut in spring 2024 and reopen in October 2026. A temporary site will host shows in the interim.

Originally opened in 1968, the current theatre seats 490 people and is in need of significant maintenance, according to the local council.

The revamped auditorium will have a 750 capacity, while a new secondary studio will have 98 seats.

Also included in the project is a new creative community art room and the introduction of air source heat pumps to heat the building.

The scheme is part of a newly planned Theatre Quarter for the Oakengates area, which will involve demolishing several shops. In October, shop owners told the BBC they were not offered enough compensation and had uncertain futures.

Speaking about plans, Councillor Shaun Davies, leader of Telford and Wrekin Council, said, "This is a defining moment for our community.

“The remodelling of Telford Theatre underscores our commitment to nurturing the arts, cultivating talent and revitalising our vibrant town.”

Cultural renaissance in Bangor

Open House festival choir in Bangor
11 Sep 2023

Alison Gordon believes culture is vital to the regeneration of Northern Ireland's seaside towns, but ongoing cuts to the arts will have a damaging impact. 

Work to begin on new arts centre in Lincoln

30 Aug 2023

The conversion of a former hotel in Lincoln into an arts centre will begin this autumn, with financial support from the government’s levelling-up initiative.

Plans to redevelop the disused Barbican Hotel, which has been empty since 2008, include the creation of freelance art studios, a public gallery and a café.

Originally built as a Victorian gentleman’s club, the transformation of the Grade II listed building is one of several regeneration schemes being financed through a £19m levelling up grant secured by Lincoln City Council in 2020. 

It is being led by a partnership between between Lincolnshire Co-operative and the University of Lincoln.
In total the project is set to cost £3.3m and is due to open next summer. Of this £1.7m comes from the government funding with the rest being put forward by City of Lincoln Council and Historic England.

Sally Denton, the Executive Director of Barbican Creative Hub at the University of Lincoln, said the project was making “exciting progress”.

"Following on from the initial exterior stonework renovations, work will commence shortly on phase two of the project, which will see the interior of the building being fully refurbished whilst celebrating the heritage of this iconic building," she said.

Belsay Hall reopens following major conservation project

28 Aug 2023

Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens in Northumberland has reopened to the public after a major two-year conservation and revival project carried out by English Heritage.

Partially funded by a £3.4m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, as well as support from Garfield Weston Foundation and the Foyle Foundation, the project included work to conserve the venue’s historic hall, castle and coach house and a rejuvenation of the property’s 30-acre gardens.

“The Belsay that visitors see today comprises three distinct but related elements: a medieval castle, a Greek-Revival country house, which superseded it as a family residence at the beginning of the 19th century, and a beautiful garden linking the two buildings,” said Mark Douglas, English Heritage’s Properties Curator.

The property, designed by Sir Charles Monk, is one of the earliest Greek Revival houses in Britain.

The restoration addressed problems including a leaking roof and gutters that had been causing damp issues for over two hundred years and the loss of much of the original planting material in the venue’s Grade I-listed gardens.

The original roof has now been replaced and the castle’s medieval stonework repaired. The gardens have been restored by landscape designer and gardener Dan Pearson, who planned a new scheme that maintained its historic character.

Pearson and his team planted more than 80,000 new plants, with 35,000 alone in the hall’s woodland area. The project also restored previously lost historic views on Crag Wood’s scenic walk.

Pearson’s “plantsmanship and painterly eye have helped to bring out the individual character of the extensive garden areas,” said John Watkins, English Heritage’s Head of Gardens and Landscapes.

The upgraded site includes a new projected animation and soundscape centring on the story of The Wildman, a medieval mythical figure which features on the coat of arms of the Middleton family, who owned Belsay for over 700 years.

It also includes new family-friendly spaces, a children’s woodland play-and-learn area with an outdoor classroom and a café with renewable energy and rainwater harvesting located in the historic coach house.

‘Very marginal’ link between creative industries and gentrification

Bristol's city centre depicting street out
24 Aug 2023

Analysis suggests creative firms follow existing gentrification, while artists and workers precede it, leaving an often 'very small' correlation between the sector and gentrification of a neighbourhood.

Glass museum reopens following £1m renovation

15 Aug 2023

A museum charting the history of glass production has reopened following a £1m refurbishment.

The World of Glass in St Helens celebrates the Merseyside town's "proud history" of glass production, executive director Pete Frost said.

Originally opened in 2000, the museum has been refurbished as part of wider investment in the town from the government's Town Deal Fund.

The museum is built alongside the town's Sankey canal and around a Grade II-listed tank house on a network of tunnels originally used for heat and airflow.

The refurbishment includes updated, interactive exhibits designed to add "a layer of hands-on engagement" for visitors.

As well as exhibits telling the story of glass making, the museum holds a collection of thousands of glass objects from around the world.

Curator Hannah Billinge said: "It is an important collection that is one of a kind."

Entry to the museum is free.

National Theatre submits back-of-house refurbishment plans

10 Aug 2023

The National Theatre has submitted a planning application to modernise some of its backstage departments, which have not been refurbished since the 1970s.

The plans, which were submitted to Lambeth Council by architects and designers Tom Wilson Studio, detail refurbishments intended to bring the theatre’s back-of-house facilities in line with current health and safety requirements, to better reflect new staffing levels and to meet contemporary workplace and rest area requirements.

The areas scheduled for upgrade include the Grade II-listed theatre’s textiles studio, costume and prop workshop, wig, hair and make-up department and laundry room, located on the building’s fifth floor, the Stage reported.

The planning application said these areas as “no longer support the working requirements and practices expected of a modern theatre”.

“The area has been largely unaltered since the 1970s and in some cases does not meet the needs of modern shows or current health and safety standards,” said Tom Clarke, National Planning Advisor at Theatres Trust.

“Furthermore, its extract ventilation equipment has reached the end of its life. It is therefore proposed that these facilities will be upgraded with improved equipment installed to provide a safer and fit-for-purpose working environment.”

The proposal also specifies that the lighting needs replacing in all areas and puts forward suggestions for minor changes to the layout of the fifth floor, including a new doorway and the removal of dye vats from the textile studio.

“The National Theatre is working to reduce its carbon impacts, with a plan to achieve net zero in 2030,” it says. “The project should seek to reduce energy use through design and as these workshops contain some of the last remaining gas-fired equipment in use in the building, we should remove these to improve safety and help us reduce our fossil fuel impacts."

Dulwich Picture Gallery gets go-ahead for £4.6m redevelopment

24 Jul 2023

Dulwich Picture Gallery has received planning permission for its biggest redevelopment in over 20 years.

The £4.6m transformation will include the addition of a interactive sculpture garden and a new building for families, both located in previously inaccessible areas of the gallery’s three-acre garden.

Architects Carmody Groarke will design the new pavilion building and an extension for the site’s existing cottage, which will both be constructed with lightweight timber frames to ensure low embodied carbon construction.

The new structures will be used to provide activities focused on art and creative play for school groups and young children.

Leading landscape artist Kim Wilkie has been selected to design the new outdoor gallery and to transform an underutilised field into a meadow and ‘art forest’, which will host a new biennial sculpture competition. The addition of 150 new trees and the sowing of wildflowers will enhance biodiversity by an estimated 17%.

As part of the gallery’s push towards environmental sustainability, a new ground source heat pump will be installed to decarbonise the existing gallery’s heating systems and to supply new buildings.

The gallery will remain open throughout the construction period, which is scheduled to start this winter and to finish in early 2025.

“The vision for Open Art is grounded in the principles of innovation and inclusion which have defined the gallery since we first opened to the public in 1817,” said Jennifer Scott, Director of Dulwich Picture Gallery.

“This exciting project will transform our green spaces into London’s only gallery-based sculpture garden, providing new creative experiences for everyone and inspiring the artists of the future.”

High streets: The future is now

Street Fest in Gloucester on 1 July 2023. Giant puppet Farrah the Fox parades the streets with Sabrina, a puppet representing the Spirit of the River Severn, created in partnership with Emergency Exit Arts. 
12 Jul 2023

More than half of England’s high streets were built over a century ago, with buildings now falling into disrepair. Ellen Harrison shares how culture-led regeneration is changing them for the better. 

London's 3 Mills Studios completes £6m renovation

04 Jul 2023

A major expansion of 3 Mills Studios in East London has been completed.

The £6m redevelopment includes upgrades to several historic buildings and the creation of more than 10,000 square feet of creative workspace.

The overhaul also included boosting the site’s environmental sustainability and climate resilience and ensuring the economic viability of its heritage assets.

The project was funded by a £3m grant from City Hall, with a further £1.9m provided by the London Legacy Development Corporation. It is intended to support more than 1,000 local jobs.

The studio has historically provided staging for numerous well-known TV series and films. The renovations will allow it to expand its offering to film, TV and theatre.

“London is a global hub for film and television and 3 Mills has been pivotal in the success of the industry,” said Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London.

“The restoration of these historic buildings not only offers much needed space for more industry production to take place in the capital, but also supports over a thousand jobs in the heart of east London. 

“It will enable the studios to play a major role as the capital’s film and TV industries support our economy and we build a better London for everyone.”

Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London and the British Film Commission, added: “London and the UK’s film and TV industry continues to drive significant economic growth, supporting thousands of new jobs each year through production hubs in the capital and across the UK regions and nation”. 

“It is because of first class facilities like 3 Mills Studios, as well as our world class talent and crew, that the UK is a leading global centre for production.’

“Upgrading our studio facilities is essential to maintaining the UK’s attractiveness to domestic and international productions, helping to future-proof our creative industries in the process.’’

Leicestershire windmill to become ‘quality museum’

27 Jun 2023

The site of a listed windmill in Leicestershire is scheduled for an upgrade that will see it gain a “quality museum and associated facilities”.

North West Leicestershire District Council has granted permission to Swannington Heritage Trust to extend the Neverson Centre, an existing building on the site of the Grade-II listed Hough Mill.

The trust said the centre, which is currently used as a museum, workshop and visitor centre, is a “fantastic building” but that it is not currently “sufficient as either a workshop or a museum”, Leicestershire Live reported.

Plans for renovation include the demolition of an onsite building, which will be replaced with an insulated metal-clad building to be used as a workshop and storage space, as well as containing visitor toilets and a meeting area for volunteers.

The existing museum building will also be extended to ensure it “provides a single, disabled accessible toilet and a further small museum display area”. 

The mill’s listed status means that efforts must be made to preserve both the structure and its setting. The trust said that the new building would be “minimally visible” when approaching the mill and would help to improve the site.

The mill was first opened to the public in 2000, after being refurbished with a grant from the National Heritage Lottery Fund. The trust now has three years to complete the proposed upgrades.


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