Work is now under way on the Grand Theatre’s £1million refurbishment project.
Plans were approved earlier this year to revamp the 120-year-old venue’s ground floor and box office, dressing rooms, offices and rehearsal space, after a £700,000 grant was secured from the Arts Council.
The first phase of the scheme will see a new rehearsal suite created in a building next to the theatre and connected through its dress circle level, and the dressing rooms refurbished.
Secondly, offices which have lain empty and semi-derelict for around 30 years will be opened up to create a modern open plan office space, linked to the Grade II*-listed theatre at upper circle level.
Chair of the Grand Theatre Trust Board Roger Lloyd Jones said: “This project will help us to satisfy the requirements from artists, community theatre groups and staff for improved facilities.”
Coun Christine Wright, cabinet member for culture and heritage, said: “This investment will transform the beautiful Grand Theatre into an attraction modern enough for the 21st Century, but will retain its heritage and cultural value that is of huge historical importance in Blackpool, for many years to come.”
The improved facilities will enable the theatre to attract more touring productions, to develop its dance programme and increase its participatory activity
A third phase will see the foyer and box office refurbished, with £60,000 of exclusive funding from waste management company Sita UK. Work on this has yet to begin. The Grand will stay open with a full programme of productions throughout the work, which is expected to take around six months to complete.
The additional £200,000 funding will come from the Friends of The Grand and the Blackpool Investment Fund.
The ‘performing arts hub’ has been designed by architectural and planning consultancy Cassidy + Ashton, project managed by Blackpool Council leisure and operational services and contracted by Blackpool-based F Parkinson Ltd.
Associate architect at Cassidy + Ashton Lawrence McBurney said: “The Grand Theatre is a jewel in the crown of Blackpool’s prestigious heritage and we’re determined to preserve its historic importance.”
And Mike Tyler, at F Parkinson, spoke of the company’s ‘honour’ at working to “enhance this prestigious iconic building nestled in the heart of our own town”.
Arts Council England director North Alison Clark said: “I am pleased we have been able to support the redevelopment of the Blackpool Grand through our capital programme.
“The improved facilities will enable the theatre to attract more touring productions, to develop its dance programme and increase its participatory activity – all of which will allow it to deliver exciting new programmes to attract audiences both from the area and further afield.”
The Grand Theatre has a capacity of 1,000 seats within its four-tier auditorium and continues to attract audiences of more than 130,000 each year.