Staff and leaders at Liverpool’s iconic Unity Theatre are enjoying a double celebration, as they hand over the keys to the beloved Hope Place building to contractors.
The exchange of contracts between Unity chiefs and contractors Vivark marks the first step in a £845,000 transformation of the theatre and former synagogue, designed by Liverpool architects K2, slated for completion in April 2017.
The handover coincides with the announcement of significant funding news for Unity Theatre, as a further £60,000 in contributions towards the #BuildUnityBetter project have now been confirmed.
Funders PH Holt Foundation and Garfield Western Foundation have committed £10,000 and £50,000 respectively to the major capital development work, with social enterprise First Ark Group also adding to the project funding. The funding follows an initial £435,000 investment from Arts Council England, £120,000 from Liverpool City Council, £30,000 from theGranada Foundation and £2000 from the Ravensdale Foundation as well as over £20,000 in individual donations from Unity Theatre supporters.
The redevelopment of the city centre venue is the first major work to be carried out since 1998 and promises to open up Unity Theatre’s spaces to a greater number, and broader mix of people, with major alterations being made to ‘public spaces’ such as the entrance, foyer and first floor bar.
Improved soundproofing between Unity Theatre’s two performance spaces will allow both venues to be used together more often and, as a result, create more opportunities for work and artist development, as well as increasing revenue.
Chris Bliss, Chair of Unity Theatre’s board and Estate Director at Liverpool ONE said ‘It’s incredibly exciting, after years of dreaming, scoping, fundraising and planning, to see the transformation of Unity Theatre set in motion. It means that in a matter months, we will see our collective vision of a 21st century theatre, innovatively designed by local architects K2, come to life. Once complete, Unity Theatre will be able to play an even bigger, more ambitious role in Liverpool, the region and beyond.”
Of the continued success of the #BuildUnityBetter fundraising campaign, Artistic Director and CEO Matthew Linley said “We’re all really grateful for the financial support we have received for Build Unity Better. It’s fantastic that the national development agency for the arts, our local council leaders, national grant-making trusts, local funders, corporate partners and scores of individual donors, have all recognised the vital contribution Unity Theatre does and will continue to make to local people, Liverpool City region, and the regional and UK theatre landscape.”
Liverpool’s Assistant Mayor, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “I’m delighted that work on Build Unity Better has started. Throughout its history, Unity has been a home for high-quality, radical theatre, making a vital contribution to Liverpool’s reputation as a word-class theatre city. The redevelopment work will make it possible for even more talented artists and theatre companies to present work in Liverpool and for locals and visitors alike to enjoy a quality 21st century venue. The redeveloped Unity Theatre will provide an even greater resource for audiences, local communities and artists of the future.”
Alison Clark, Director North and Combined Arts at Arts Council England said: “This is an exciting moment in Unity Theatre’s redevelopment project. Our capital programme is about supporting resilience and helping arts and cultural organisations thrive. Our investment in this redevelopment as well as the core funding we have provided through our National portfolio programme will allow Unity Theatre to grow and build on its substantial history and reputation as an important part of the creative sector in Liverpool and beyond.”
And the fundraising drive will continue at a pace over the coming weeks and months, with plans in place to launch crowdfunding campaigns promising a series of rewards for donors, including ‘unique money-can’t buy experiences’. Unity theatre will soon be announcing a special fundraising event, taking place in March 2017, bringing partners, individuals and businesses together to celebrate the future of Unity Theatre.
While the building is out of operation, Unity Theatre will still be bringing exceptional performance to Liverpool. The Out of Space season is taking shows out and about to venues across Merseyside, including Liverpool Cathedral, Make Liverpool, Bluecoat, Capstone Theatre, and The Atkinson in Southport.
During the redevelopment period, Unity Theatre continues vital work for audiences under 12 years old as its creative play workshops Splatterdays go on tour to local Liverpool libraries from January. More information can be found at unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk
To find out more about the #BuildUnityBetter project and fundraising drive, go to: www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk/future-plans-2.html
For information and booking of the Out of Space season go to: http://www.unitytheatreliverpool.co.uk/out-of-space-2017.html