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Single Investment Funding for Shakespeare North

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has today approved a package of circa £14million from its Single Investment Fund for the Shakespeare North Playhouse and Rail Interchange project in Prescot.

The funding will contribute towards the construction of the Shakespeare North Playhouse and major upgrades to Prescot train station and transport connections in the town centre.

The Shakespeare North Playhouse is an iconic new theatre and education space that will celebrate Knowsley’s links with Elizabethan drama and Shakespeare himself, attracting visitors and students from all over the world.

The improvements to Prescot train station will help to accommodate people travelling to and from the Playhouse and provide a welcoming visitor experience to the town.

Metro Mayor for the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram said:

The Combined Authority exists to enable transformative change for the people of the Liverpool City Region and these two projects certainly fit with the bill.  We are determined to ensure that the whole of the city region benefits from devolution so backing Knowsley in this way is a statement of intent.

“The Shakespeare North Playhouse is a hugely ambitious scheme which will attract jobs and investment, as well as visitors to the city region, and the new rail interchange will make a big difference to people’s lives.  These are exactly the kinds of schemes we should be backing through our Single Investment Fund and I’m pleased we were able to support them to the tune of £14m.”

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said:

“This funding approval is a fantastic boost for Prescot and indeed Knowsley and the wider Liverpool City Region. The Shakespeare North Playhouse will become a major visitor attraction for Northern England, attracting people from across the globe to the region and providing something completely new and unique.

“The Playhouse is already having a positive effect on Prescot, as new homes are being built and new businesses are opening in the town – restaurants and hotels, all in preparation for when the theatre and education centre open in 2020. Alongside new jobs, education opportunities and access to world class cultural activity, Prescot is becoming an even more attractive place for people to come and visit and spend time and for businesses to invest.”

Prescot has a fascinating link with Shakespeare and Elizabethan drama. In Elizabethan times it was the only English town outside of London to have a purpose built indoor playhouse and the support and patronage of the Earls of Derby at Knowsley Hall played a notable part in the development of Shakespearean drama.

At the heart of the Shakespeare North Playhouse will be a reproduction 350 seat Jacobean theatre based on the Inigo Jones’ Cockpit-at-Court built in 1629 while other parts of the building will include education facilities, studio theatre, exhibition area, café/bar and outdoor spaces.

It is estimated that the Shakespeare North Playhouse will generate over 100,000 new visitors to the Liverpool City Region each year from across the UK and internationally and the value of goods and services produced in the city region will increase by £13 million during construction and by £5.3 million each year following opening. The Playhouse is expected to create 20 new permanent full time jobs and around 175 full time jobs across the region and 185 temporary construction jobs.

 

The investment into Prescot train station will complement the Shakespeare North Playhouse and will include a remodelled car park with increased capacity, additional lifts in the train station providing access to both platforms, a new pedestrian and cyclist path and signage between the station, town centre and Playhouse to help direct visitors.

There are also proposals to illuminate St Mary’s Church, next to the site of the Playhouse, together with public realm improvements focused on Eccleston Street, making Prescot town centre an even more attractive environment.

Kier Construction has been appointed to build the Shakespeare North Playhouse, work has started on site and the main construction will start in summer 2018. The first phase of the transport improvements will start late summer 2018, commencing with the public realm enhancements between Prescot train station and the Shakespeare North Playhouse.

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Sir Ken Dodd, 1927 – 2018

It is with great sadness that all of us at Shakespeare North have heard of Sir Ken’s death.  He was excited to think of a Shakespearean Playhouse being built so near to Knotty Ash, his much loved home, and had looked forward to gracing our stage, bringing laughter and happiness to our audiences.  He will always be an inspiration to those who play Shakespeare’s comic roles.

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Shakespeare North Featured in The Stage

Renowned theatre bible The Stage has published a great feature on Shakespeare North and the plans for the playhouse in Prescot.

Titled ‘The birth of Merseyside’s Shakespeare North playhouse’, the piece, written by Catherine Jones, tells the story of how after two decades of planning and multiple redesigns, building is about to get underway. Key figures in the project tell the author “how the long-held aspiration to construct a Jacobean-style theatre has come to fruition – a fitting tribute to the celebrated playwright’s legacy on Merseyside”

Read it in full here.

 

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Contractor appointed for Shakespeare North Playhouse

Via KnowsleyNews.co.uk: Knowsley Council’s Cabinet has agreed the appointment of Kier Construction as preferred construction partner to build the iconic Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot town centre.

The new theatre, education and exhibition centre will be a major visitor attraction, the first of its kind in Knowsley and the Liverpool City Region.

Full planning permission was granted in April 2016 and again in November 2017 when an updated design for the building was approved.

Unique building

The unique building will sit in the heart of Prescot town centre and will include a 350 seat theatre, education facilities, performance studio, exhibition and education centre, office accommodation, a coffee shop and bar.

As part of the contract, Kier Construction will work with Knowsley-based supply chain companies to maximise the power of the Knowsley pound, strengthening the local economy.  11 new apprenticeship opportunities and seven new jobs will be offered through Knowsley Works and work placement opportunities, training, education and community activities for local schools and residents will also be available.

Once complete, the Shakespeare North Playhouse will create 19.5 new direct jobs and 203 off site permanent posts while bringing £5.3m GVA to the Liverpool City Region and attracting approximately 111,000 visitors per year.

Cllr Andy Moorhead, Leader of Knowsley Council said:

“I am delighted that Kier Construction has been appointed to build the Shakespeare North Playhouse. This is another important milestone for the project and I am looking forward to seeing the start of construction.

“I am proud to lead this Council in bringing such rich cultural and educational experiences to our residents and the wider community. It is a really exciting time for Prescot, Knowsley and the Liverpool City Region.”

John O’Callaghan, Kier Construction Northern managing director, said:

“We’re excited to be delivering this fantastic scheme for Knowsley Council which builds on our success in the arts and leisure sector, including the recently completed refurbishment and redevelopment of Chester Storyhouse.

“Sitting in the heart of the town, Shakespeare North Playhouse will be a real asset to the local community when complete and we’re looking forward to working with the local supply chain to deliver this project and develop the skills of local people with the creation of 11 new apprenticeships.”

Historic links and education

Plans for a theatre in Prescot are more than 10 years in the making. The vision of Shakespeare North is to celebrate the Elizabethan and Jacobean heritage of Knowsley, a place with historic links to the Earl’s of Derby and Lord Strange’s men.  The Shakespeare North Playhouse will bring Shakespearean theatre back to the area that has an important place in the history of Elizabethan drama.

The proposed site of the Playhouse on the current Mill Street car park has been thoroughly researched and is very close to the site of the only purpose built playhouse outside of London in Elizabethan times.

The Shakespeare North Playhouse will run its own Masters Degree Programme in Shakespearean Performance Practice where students will be able to train in a reproduction of the 1629 Inigo Jones “Cock pit at Court” theatre alongside professional performance companies and actors. The Masters programme will be validated by Liverpool John Moores University.

The Playhouse will also offer significant development opportunities for the local community, from early-childhood to older years, and a comprehensive education programme for schools.

Funding

Funding of £11m has been secured, including £6m from Knowsley Council and £5m from the Government, which has been endorsed by Arts Council England. A Full Business Case has been submitted to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Single Investment Fund for funding of £6.5m which will be considered shortly, and applications for further grant funding totalling £1m from other sources are also under way.

Knowsley Council’s Cabinet also agreed for the council to underwrite the funding gap over the construction period to enable the works to start whilst philanthropic, foundation and public fundraising continues.

Next steps

Pre-construction work will start in April 2018 and building work is expected to be complete by William Shakespeare’s birthday in April 2020 with the theatre opening to guests and students later that year.

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Amended Shakespeare North plans approved

Revised plans for a Shakespeare theatre in Prescot town centre have been given the go ahead.

Full planning permission for the iconic Shakespeare North Playhouse was granted in April 2016 and now an updated design for the building has been approved by Knowsley Council’s Planning Committee (on Thursday 9 November 2017).

The plans for the building in the heart of Prescot town centre  include a 350 seat theatre, education facilities, performance studio, exhibition area, office accommodation, a small shop, a coffee shop and bar and an outdoor performance area to accommodate an audience of 150.

Updated design

The modified design now includes a dedicated Exhibition and Education Centre, the design of the external glazing façade has been refreshed and the building will no longer include a basement.

Cllr Graham Morgan, Knowsley’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development said:

“This is another significant milestone for this iconic development and a positive reflection of the council’s ambitious growth plans. The council, its private sector partners, the local community and local businesses are all working together on bold plans to conserve the history of Prescot while transforming the town into an even more attractive place for people to visit and spend time.

The Shakespeare North Playhouse will help us to achieve this, attracting visitors and investors to Prescot, Knowsley and the wider Liverpool City Region.”

Elizabethan links

Plans for a theatre in Prescot are more than 10 years in the making. The vision of Shakespeare North is to celebrate the Elizabethan heritage of Knowsley and bring Shakespearean theatre back to the area that has an important place in the history of Elizabethan drama.

The proposed site of the Playhouse on the current Mill street car park has been carefully considered and researched and is very close to the site of the only purpose built playhouse outside of London in Elizabethan times.

The Shakespeare North Playhouse will run its own Masters Programme in Shakespearean Performance Practice allowing students to train in a real theatre with real actors and will be validated by Liverpool John Moores University.

The Playhouse will also offer development opportunities for the local community and a broad education programme for schools.

Funding

Knowsley Council has contributed £6m towards this development and the National Government has contributed £5m, which has been endorsed by Arts Council England. Knowsley Council has submitted a bid to Liverpool City Region Combined Authority for £6.5m. The remaining funding will come from philanthropic giving, private donations, foundation fundraising and further grants applications managed by the Shakespeare North Playhouse Trust.

Next steps

The main contractor will be appointed in December and pre-construction work will start from February 2018 with all construction expected to be completed by April 2020. The first Masters students are expected to start their studies in October 2020.

Before construction, there will be an archaeological investigation of the site, starting on 4 December. Earlier site investigations discovered remains of medieval and post-medieval artefacts.

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Support for Shakespeare North

A year and a bit after the brilliant news that planning approval had been granted for the Shakespeare North playhouse, here’s a little look back at the support the project attracted and continues to attract.

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Sir Ken Dodd agrees to become a patron of Shakespeare North

Sir Ken Dodd, Liverpool’s favourite son, has agreed to become a patron of Shakespeare North. In doing so, Sir Ken said:

All the world’s a stage – and I am delighted to be a patron of this wonderful project

Sir Ken lives in Knotty Ash on the outskirts of Liverpool, just a short drive from the site of the Shakespeare North Playhouse. He is a passionate advocate for live theatre and has been entertaining audiences up and down the country for over 60 years. He made his professional debut at the Empire Theatre, Nottingham in September 1954 and went onto become a hugely popular performer: He made his debut at the London Palladium in 1965 and enjoyed an unprecedented 42 week sell-out season which earned him a Variety Club Award.

Sir Ken made his Shakespearean debut as Malvolio in Twelfth Night at the Playhouse Theatre, Liverpool in 1971, a role for which he was acclaimed. His film debut, meanwhile, was as Yorick in Kenneth Branagh’s 1997 version of Hamlet. In 2005 he addressed an audience in Stratford-upon-Avon for the Royal Shakespeare Company. His talk on Shakespeare and Humour was, given his famous live shows that often lasted five hours, appropriately titled ‘A fellow of infinite jest’.

Sir Ken was knighted by the Duke of Cambridge in March 2017 for his outstanding career in entertainment and for his substantial work with charities.

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Arts Council England Confirms Funding for Shakespeare North

Arts Council England has confirmed the £5 million HM Treasury funding for the Shakespeare North Playhouse to be built in Prescot town centre.

The funding was pledged by the Chancellor of the Exchequer as part of the budget announcement in May 2016. Since then, Knowsley Council and Shakespeare North Trust have presented a robust and sustainable business plan to Arts Council England to endorse the funding.

John Flaherty, Executive Director (Place) at Knowsley Council said:

“This is a fantastic achievement and a key milestone for Shakespeare North Trust and Knowsley Council. Not only does it mean we now have £11m of confirmed funding, but it is also a huge seal of approval and vote of confidence from the Arts Council that the Shakespeare theatre and education centre is a viable and sustainable business.

“It will also strengthen the Outline Business Case submission to the Combined Authority Single Investment Fund to secure a further £6.5m funding towards the development.”

The funding will be used towards creating an iconic 330-seat Jacobean court style theatre and study centre, education and community resources and exhibition area, the supporting administrative offices and catering and hospitality facilities.

Subject to funding, construction of the new playhouse is expected to start January 2018.

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Historic artefacts found at Shakespeare North site

As reported on Knowsley News, historic items dating back to as early as the 14th century have been found at the site where the new Shakespeare North Playhouse will be built in Prescot:

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Shakespeare at Knowsley Hall

The February edition of the Stanley Estates Magazine details some recent Shakespearean events at Knowsley Hall, home of the Earl of Derby and central to the Shakespeare North story.

From an international symposium of Shakespearean scholars from around the world, to a performance of Much Ado About Nothing, to a recreation of the Twelfth Night Masque, Knowsley Hall has been embracing it’s Shakespearean heritage. There is more in the magazine, here.

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