Playhouse at dusk

The Shakespeare North Playhouse has been successful in a bid for a Capital Kickstart Grant of £3 million from the Government. The funding is part of the £1.57 billion package established to protect the UK’s culture and heritage sector from the economic impact of COVID-19.

The £3 million awarded – one of the largest grant sums allocated as part of this scheme – recognises the detrimental impact that COVID has had on wider fundraising efforts to support The Playhouse, which is due to open in 2022.  The Shakespeare North Playhouse is one of 74 organisations receiving support through the fund.

Interim Chief Executive Ian Tabbron commented: “COVID has placed such incredible pressure on the whole arts industry and on theatres and venues up and down the UK. Whilst we have been able to continue with construction work on The Playhouse throughout the pandemic – itself a significant achievement – our funding strategy has been derailed.

With philanthropic private funding always having been a key part of our plan to finance the project, it has been challenging as many funds and individuals have been impacted by the pandemic or taken a pause in their giving whilst the situation evolves.

This funding helps to bridge that gap and make up for some of the support we have been unable to secure during this incredibly difficult year. But our funding efforts must continue. Fundraising is still a big priority for us to ensure the long-term sustainability of this wonderful asset.”

Once complete, The Playhouse will provide a flexible theatre with capacity for between 320 and 472 seats, based on the iconic 17th century ‘cockpit-in-court’ design. It will also boast an inclusive education programme, digital gallery, visitor centre and additional performance spaces including an outdoor performance garden.

The Shakespeare North Playhouse has successfully secured funding from Knowsley Council (£12m), central government (£5m) and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority (£10.5m). Alongside this public sector support the project has also secured contributions from two national grant making trusts (Garfield Weston Foundation and the Foyle Foundation) and a major donation of £700,000 from the Sir Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation Trust. In addition, individuals and companies can donate online, sign up to a direct debit or donate via the Knowsley Chamber 100 Club.

Cllr Tony Brennan, Knowsley Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration & Economic Development said: “This additional funding support is really welcome news for the project and for Knowsley too. The Shakespeare North Playhouse is so important for this area’s recovery after COVID-19 and being awarded this funding also cements The Playhouse’s position not only as a major asset for the north but as a crucial part of the UK’s cultural landscape in the future.”

Even before the Playhouse is completed it is already having a significant impact on the local area with new high street businesses moving to Prescot, 1500 new homes being built and significant investment being made in public realm and connectivity improvements. Alongside the tangible benefits already delivered The Playhouse is expected to attract more than 140,000 visitors each year once established bringing a boost of more than £5.3 million to GVA and a range of employment opportunities directly and indirectly linked to the project.

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “This government promised it would be here for culture and today’s announcement is proof we’ve kept our word.

“The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs at cultural organisations across the UK, with more support still to come through a second round of applications.

“Today we’re extending a huge helping hand to the crown jewels of UK culture – so that they can continue to inspire future generations all around the world.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England added: “Today’s announcement is another vital step in securing the future of England’s cultural sector. Supporting capital projects will help to ensure that we maintain an innovative, sustainable cultural infrastructure that supports world class creative work, while the loans announced today will enable some of our largest and most prestigious cultural organisations to weather the effects of Covid-19 and reopen when it is safe to do so. The Arts Council is grateful to the Government for their support through the Culture Recovery Fund, and we are proud to support all the organisations receiving funding today.”