Work has now started to extend Tamworth Assembly Rooms as part of a major £4.8m project to transform the historic theatre into a modern venue fit for 21st century audiences.
The 128-year-old Corporation Street building is being extended to the side and rear to add a new multi-use space, extra toilet facilities and an extended backstage area. As well as much-needed extra space, this will also provide opportunities for the theatre to be used for a wider range of events.
Anyone passing can look through specially-created peep holes in the hoarding surrounding the site to see that foundations for the side extension have now been dug (to the left of the original theatre when facing it from the street) and the new building will start to take shape in the coming months.
The aim is for the glass-fronted multi-use space at the front of the new extension to be used for a variety of events such as conferences, art exhibitions, galleries and meetings. During the evenings, it could be used for smaller events such as open-mic nights, poetry readings and comedy nights. On busy show evenings, the idea is for it to be used as a secondary bar area to the main café/bar which is being created on the other side of the building.
Additional toilet facilities will be built behind the multi-use area to ease the demand that was experienced by theatre-goers in the past.
The rear of the extension will provide improved backstage facilities, including a glass-walled ‘green room’, practise space for performers and dressing rooms.
The composition of the extension has been carefully designed to match and complement as much of the existing theatre as possible. Once complete, the new sections of building will add far more space and better access and flow for customers to enjoy their visit.
Cllr Steve Claymore, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Heritage and Growth, said: “Tamworth Assembly Rooms was built to celebrate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria and it was paid for by the people of Tamworth, who helped raise the £5,500 needed to build it. The theatre opened in 1889 and has been entertaining audiences ever since, including hosting some well-known acts over the years such as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones.
“For that reason, we have a duty to make sure this iconic building continues to thrive so that it can be enjoyed by many more generations of Tamworth people and visitors to the town. But for that to happen, the theatre had to be modernised and it had to diversify.
“As well as being brought into the 21st century in terms of accessibility, facilities and technology, the refurbishment will open the building up to a wider range of purposes, so that it can be used by more people and at different times of the day, in addition to the regular big show nights.
“Work is progressing well and we can really start to see the changes happening now. I’d encourage anyone passing by to have a glimpse through the new peep holes and witness the unfolding of this momentous period in the building’s history.”
The £3.38 m construction phase of the project is being led by Novus Property Solutions, supported by Brownhill Hayward Brown Architects, Keelagher Okey Klein quantity surveyors, Cundall structural engineers and mechanical and electrical engineers BWB Consulting. The whole project is being managed by Rider Levett Bucknall UK.
External repairs to the original elements of the theatre are now largely complete, including repairs to the roof and masonry, underpinning the existing foundations, re-opening the previously-boarded windows in the auditorium and decorating.
Mark Foxall, contracts manager at Novus Property Solutions, said: “The work at Tamworth Assembly Rooms is progressing well. The site’s two new build elevations are almost entirely prepared for construction – with the south elevation awaiting the completion of an archaeological investigation before the groundworks are finished. This investigation is nearing completion allowing the new construction to start; in the meantime the first part of the extension’s steel frame is being delivered on the north-facing elevation.”
The Assembly Rooms refurbishment is part of the wider £6.1m scheme to create a new Enterprise Quarter in the heart of Tamworth. This also includes a new restaurant in the Carnegie Centre and the development of new ‘public realm’ open space.
It is being funded by the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent LEP’s Single Local Growth Fund (£2.95m), the Heritage Lottery Fund (£903,400), Arts Council England (£365,000) and the remainder from Tamworth Borough Council.
The construction phase is expected to take around 14 months overall and will be followed by further internal and technical work. If all goes to plan, the theatre should reopen during 2019, but further updates will be issued as the project progresses.
Progress can be followed via a special Tamworth Assembly Rooms project blog at http://www.tamworthartsandevents.co.uk/blog.