120-year-old theatre will be transformed
A £1m revamp of a Blackpool theatre jewel is set to get underway in the new year.
Plans have been submitted for a massive refurbishment of The Grand Theatre.
And, if the plans are approved by Blackpool Council, it is hoped work will begin as soon as January.
The 120-year-old venue’s ground floor and box office will be completely refurbished, with improved dressing rooms and a new rehearsal area part of plans.
Funding for the project was approved this week with a £700,000 grant from the Arts Council, alongside £200,000 from the Friends of the Grand and grants from Blackpool Council and the Theatres Trust.
Grand Theatre chief executive Ruth Eastwood said: “We are delighted. I think it shows the bigger national funding bidders are looking at Blackpool trying to help us.
“The Grand is 120 years old and is Grade II-listed.
“It is a jewel in the crown of Blackpool’s heritage and the nation’s buildings.
“We are delighted to be in a position to make these changes.”
The project will include a new staircase off Church Street to provide secure access to the first and second floor levels, as well as improved disabled access for the Grade II-listed theatre.
The new rehearsal area, with space for 60 to 70 people, at the top of the building will be open to schools and drama companies, while the layout of office and staff facilities will be brought closer together.
Waste management company Sita UK has provided £60,000 as part of a community project which will be used exclusively for the foyer and box office refurbishment.
Lawrence McBurney, associate architect at designers Cassidy and Ashton of Preston, said the team had worked closely with conservation groups and English Heritage on the plans, which were submitted to the council this week.
He added: “It is exciting to be involved in something with heritage like this.
“The box office and foyer, as well as front counter, will be enhanced and make the building more welcoming.
“We are also dealing with disabled access. Anyone with a wheelchair has had to go outside and back inside again – they will not have to do that now with the new entrance.
“We are determined to preserve the Grand’s considerable historic importance to the town.”
A spokesman for Arts Council England said: “We are very pleased to support organisations, like The Grand, that can make a real difference in towns like Blackpool where opportunities for people to engage in arts and culture are lower than elsewhere.”
Built in 1894, The Grand – which was designed by the legendary theatrical architect Frank Matcham – has a capacity of 1,053 seats within its four-tier auditorium and continues to attract audiences of more than 130,000 each year.
Coun Christine Wright, Blackpool Council’s cabinet member for culture and heritage, said: “Submission of the plans is another step towards significant and sensitive improvements to our wonderful Grand Theatre.
“We recognise fantastic history of The Grand and, despite budget pressures, we’re delighted this work is progressing thanks to support from the Arts Council and others. We now await the outcome of the planning process.”
Roger Lloyd, chairman of the Grand Theatre Trust, said: “I’m confident Cassidy and Ashton’s designs will deliver the standards of facilities our audiences, performers and staff expect in the twenty-first century, while protecting the essence of this beautiful building.”
Blackpool construction firm Parkinson’s has been appointed contractor.
If the plans are passed, work is due to start on site in January with completion expected in July.