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PRESS RELEASE – Planning News



Planning permission has been granted to Shakespeare North for a proposed new £19m theatre and education hub, to be built in Knowsley, North West England. The 350-seat Shakespeare North will be the core of a new International University College, the first of its kind focusing upon Shakespearean performance practice.

In March this year, George Osborne, Chancellor of the Exchequer, announced a pledge of £5m to support Shakespeare North’s proposal. The Chancellor’s announcement followed a commitment from Knowsley Council which has contributed £6m to the project, along with providing the building that will be converted into student accommodation and the land on which the theatre and college will be built.

With planning permission granted, Shakespeare North will continue fundraising ahead of building work, expected to commence in Autumn 2016. The Playhouse will be built to designs drawn in 1629 by Inigo Jones, the greatest English architect and theatre designer of his day. Helm Architecture has taken the archive designs and faithfully replicated Inigo Jones’ original vision. The Shakespeare North Playhouse will be the only replica of this indoor Jacobean Court Theatre in the world.


The support and patronage of the Earls of Derby at Knowsley Hall played a notable part in the development of Shakespearean drama. The summer seasons at Knowsley allowed Lord Strange’s Men, later part of Shakespeare’s own company at the Globe, to hone and perfect their acting craft. The Playhouse in Knowsley was the only purpose-built indoor playhouse outside London, allowing the people of the region to enjoy Elizabethan drama.

Peter Scott, Chair of Trustees, Shakespeare North Trust, said,

“The creation of an historic theatre and a unique university college in Shakespeare North will commemorate the deep connection between our greatest cultural icon and an area of the country, Knowsley, that played an important role in forging his career. Shakespeare North aims to make Knowsley once again a place where actors, writers, students and young people will be able to study and practice the plays of Shakespeare.”


About Shakespeare North

Shakespeare North is a proposed new £19m (excluding any applicable VAT and procurement costs) theatre and education hub, to be built in Knowsley, North West England.

William Shakespeare may be Britain’s greatest cultural export yet it is little known that he spent his early working life with a group of actors in Knowsley, Lancashire, and that Britain’s first indoor theatre, The Playhouse, was built there, in Prescot.

To commemorate these extraordinary artistic milestones, leading figures from business, theatre, academia, education, architecture and the local community have united to recreate that original theatre in Prescot, Knowsley, as Shakespeare North. Apart from being a unique venue for the Bard’s works, it will also have at its heart a university postgraduate programme – the first of its kind focussing upon Shakespearean practice – where students from across the world can study and practice a wide range of theatre skills.

Shakespeare North has secured in principle the involvement and support of Liverpool John Moores University to play a major part in developing one-year MA and Diploma postgraduate programmes focusing upon Shakespearean stagecraft. The Playhouse will be at the heart of these courses.

Shakespeare North is not only a cultural and educational vision; it will also bring social and economic regeneration to a community eager for and deserving of change.

Shakespeare North aims to create for Prescot, Knowsley and the region as a whole an international reputation, completing the Shakespeare triangle: Stratford, London and the North West. Our unique vision is to create a theatre in which local people interact with tourists, theatre enthusiasts, scholars and students from throughout the world.

The Inspiration for Shakespeare North:

The Shakespeare North Project originates from the fact that the only known, freestanding, purpose-built indoor Elizabethan playhouse outside of London existed – surprisingly – in the Merseyside town of Prescot. Research into the existence of this playhouse has suggested a more complex early-modern history to this small town than might be expected. It was a market town that hosted an annual fair and attracted large numbers of visitors. This led to its provision of a number of entertainment venues – its many alehouses, its cockpit and – a playhouse. Since Prescot borders Knowsley Hall and estate, one of the major residences of the Stanleys, Earls of Derby (the greatest Elizabethan magnates in the North

West and major theatrical patrons), the theatre is also probably linked to the Stanley’s cultural activities. In particular, some connections with the early career of Shakespeare have been established.

Shakespeare is believed to have been a member of Strange’s Men. This was the company of Lord Strange, the 4 th Earl of Derby’s eldest son and was based at Knowsley and Lathom. Strange’s Men performed Titus Andronicus at The Rose Theatre in London and were the precursor company to the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare’s Globe company in the1590s.

About the Design of the Theatre:

The Shakespeare North Playhouse will be built to designs drawn in 1629 by Inigo Jones, the greatest English architect and theatre designer of his day. Jones created a theatre in Whitehall called The Cockpit for the Court of King James 1. He named his theatre after the pit, used for cock fighting which had originally stood on the site and which inspired him to design the perfect stage on which to present the plays of his time, the most celebrated of which were Shakespeare’s. The designs for this theatre still survive and our architect Dr Nick Helm has used the archive to faithfully replicate the Inigo Jones vision.

The Playhouse will be the only replica of this indoor Jacobean Court Theatre in the world. By a quirk of history the Shakespeare North Playhouse will also be built on the site of an Elizabethan cockpit.

Thanks to the unique talents of our range of consultants we have a design that combines an iconic modern exterior with an interior rooted in the past.

ShakespeareNorthPRESS RELEASE – Planning News


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