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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.


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.

Guy SichAmended Shakespeare North plans approved
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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.

Guy SichSupport for Shakespeare North
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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.

Guy SichSir Ken Dodd agrees to become a patron of Shakespeare North
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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.

Guy SichArts Council England Confirms Funding for Shakespeare North
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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:

Guy SichHistoric artefacts found at Shakespeare North site
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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.

Guy SichShakespeare at Knowsley Hall
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Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has agreed to become a Patron of Shakespeare North

Gordon Brown has been a keen supporter of the project since 2008 when he invited a group of Shakespeare North Trustees to Downing Street to discuss their vision.

In agreeing to become a patron he writes:

It is a privilege and honour to support Shakespeare North. I am particularly attracted to the project because it will combine culture -and our attempt to understand and inform about our literary roots-with economic regeneration in an area that deserves to be more confident about its future. You will change the lives of thousands of young people by giving them a chance to develop their talents.

In his current role as UN Special Envoy for Global Education, Gordon works closely with key partners to help galvanise support for the UN’s Global Initiative on Education, Education First, which aims to achieve quality, relevance, and inclusive education for every child.

He served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 2007 to 2010 and is widely credited with preventing a second Great Depression through his stewardship of the 2009 London G20 summit. He was one of the first leaders during the global crisis to initiate calls for global financial action, while introducing a range of rescue measures in the UK. Previously, he served as Chancellor of the Exchequer from 1997 to 2007, making him the longest-serving Chancellor in modern history. During ten years at the Treasury, Gordon masterminded many of Labour’s proudest achievements including the Minimum Wage, Sure Start, the Winter Fuel Allowance, the Child Trust Fund, the Child Tax Credit and paid paternity leave. His role in government continued to shape his views on the importance of education as a fundamental right of every child in the world and the key to unlocking better health, greater social stability, more rights and opportunities for women and a higher standard of living.

Guy SichFormer Prime Minister Gordon Brown has agreed to become a Patron of Shakespeare North
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Knowsley to benefit from Single Investment Fund

At last week’s Liverpool City Region Combined Authority meeting, projects designed and submitted by Knowsley Council were given the green light to go through to the next stage of the Single Investment Fund (SIF).

In total, just over £458m of SIF funding is being invested in the City Region over the next five years by the Combined Authority as part of the City Region’s Devolution Agreement with the Government. The SIF is the key funding tool for promoting economic growth for the Liverpool City Region, and will support the delivery of the City Region’s strategic priorities as well as unlock the economic potential and accelerate growth.

SIF bids submitted by Knowsley Council include:

The Shakespeare North Playhouse – The £6.5m funding bid is a contribution towards the £26m costs to construct and develop the Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot town centre. The Government has already supported the project by providing £5m of funding, with Knowsley Council also itself committing £6m to the project. The new playhouse will stand just metres from the original site of the only freestanding purpose-built Elizabethan theatre outside of London. As well as being an exciting space to perform plays, the centre will be a magnet for students from all over the world hoping to study Shakespeare and his work. Whilst recognising Prescot’s rich heritage, the development is expected to have a multitude of benefits for the town and the wider area. It is estimated that the theatre and education centre will deliver more than £10m worth of value to the local economy, as well as 210 construction jobs and 57 full-time jobs once the facility opens.

Guy SichKnowsley to benefit from Single Investment Fund
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A Letter to Liverpool from Dame Judi Dench

December 31st 2016

I don’t suppose anyone in our country has failed to note that this has been a Shakespeare Anniversary year and that the anniversary of his death four hundred years ago has sent ripples across the world. Why? Because he is the greatest exponent of the English Language and our language, thanks to the internet, has become a world language.

I have been privileged to speak Shakespeare’s poetry for most of my life, words that describe courage , hope, grief, sorrow and despair and deepen our understanding of life.

This year I have celebrated Shakespeare’s life with the Royal Shakespeare Company and HRH Prince Charles at Stratford…..but amid all the celebrations one thing has pleased me above all and that is the permission granted in the Metropolitan Borough of Knowsley on Merseyside for the erection of The Shakespeare North Playhouse.

What a wonderful celebratory gesture it is that we are building a Shakespearean theatre for the North. Shakespeare as our national poet belongs to everyone. This is particularly exciting for me as my husband Michael was a Liverpudlian and he and all our family have loved this city and this part of England.

The Shakespeare North project is important to me because I believe that great Shakespearean performances can change lives and because I want to help offer hope, vision and an enhanced educational experience to the children of Knowsley and Liverpool. From 2020 everyone in Britain should be able to follow a Shakespeare journey from London to Stratford and then to Knowsley, but only if you join me in supporting this dream.

I have become a Patron of Shakespeare North and have donated the set of the film Shakespeare in Love to Shakespeare North . As this special year draws to a close and a new one begins, the Trustees of Shakespeare North invite you too to support this wonderful project.

I ask you to give whatever you can in the knowledge that 400 years from now the performances you have helped to happen will still be performed in Knowsley. This will be your legacy.

Dame Judi Dench

Guy SichA Letter to Liverpool from Dame Judi Dench
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Knowsley’s Shakespeare Playhouse is another step closer

The Shakespeare North Playhouse in Knowsley is another step closer, with key appointments to help turn the playhouse into a reality, now confirmed.

This follows Knowsley Council’s Planning Committee in April, where plans to create a Shakespearean theatre and education centre in the heart of Prescot were given the green light.

Helm Architecture has been appointed as the lead architect, with Austin-Smith: Lord LLB as the supporting architect. Other key appointments include AECOM Ltd, who will provide mechanical and electrical engineering services and well as cost consultancy, alongside Mott MacDonald Ltd who will provide structural engineering services.

Cllr Mike Murphy, Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Economic Development, said:

“Securing these key appointments is a significant milestone in the development of the playhouse, which reiterates our commitment to delivering a playhouse in Prescot.

“We look forward to working with Helm Architecture, Austin-Smith: Lord LLB, AECOM Ltd and Mott MacDonald Ltd, and their experienced teams, to deliver this exciting project.”

The Shakespeare North Playhouse in Knowsley will not only be a place where actors, writers and students will be able to study and practice the plays of Shakespeare, it will be the only actor training programme in the UK in relation to Shakespearean performance practice.

The playhouse will seat 350 people for theatre performances, as well as creating a college and education establishment for students to learn the life and works of Shakespeare.

It is expected to attract thousands of visitors and students – from a local, national and international perspective – to the area.  The playhouse will also complete the Shakespearean triangle of Stratford upon Avon, London and Knowsley.


Subject to funding, construction on the new playhouse is due to commence in September 2017.

Peter Scott, Chair of Shakespeare North Trust added:

“Our vision to have a playhouse in Prescot began 12 years ago and we’re delighted at the support and interest we have received in turning this vision into a reality.

“These key appointments will help us to recreate a Shakespearean theatre in Knowsley – which was home to the only freestanding purpose-built Elizabethan era theatre outside of London.”

Guy SichKnowsley’s Shakespeare Playhouse is another step closer
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