Knowsley Council’s Cabinet has agreed the appointment of Kier Construction as preferred construction partner to build the iconic Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot town centre.
The new theatre, education and exhibition centre will be a major visitor attraction, the first of its kind in Knowsley and the Liverpool City Region.
Full planning permission was granted in April 2016 and again in November 2017 when an updated design for the building was approved.
The unique building will sit in the heart of Prescot town centre and will include a 350 seat theatre, education facilities, performance studio, exhibition and education centre, office accommodation, a coffee shop and bar.
As part of the contract, Kier Construction will work with Knowsley-based supply chain companies to maximise the power of the Knowsley pound, strengthening the local economy. 11 new apprenticeship opportunities and seven new jobs will be offered through Knowsley Works and work placement opportunities, training, education and community activities for local schools and residents will also be available.
Once complete, the Shakespeare North Playhouse will create 19.5 new direct jobs and 203 off site permanent posts while bringing £5.3m GVA to the Liverpool City Region and attracting approximately 111,000 visitors per year.
Cllr Andy Moorhead, Leader of Knowsley Council said:
“I am delighted that Kier Construction has been appointed to build the Shakespeare North Playhouse. This is another important milestone for the project and I am looking forward to seeing the start of construction.
“I am proud to lead this Council in bringing such rich cultural and educational experiences to our residents and the wider community. It is a really exciting time for Prescot, Knowsley and the Liverpool City Region. “
John O’Callaghan, Kier Construction Northern managing director, said:
“We’re excited to be delivering this fantastic scheme for Knowsley Council which builds on our success in the arts and leisure sector, including the recently completed refurbishment and redevelopment of Chester Storyhouse.
“Sitting in the heart of the town, Shakespeare North Playhouse will be a real asset to the local community when complete and we’re looking forward to working with the local supply chain to deliver this project and develop the skills of local people with the creation of 11 new apprenticeships.”
Historic links and education
Plans for a theatre in Prescot are more than 10 years in the making. The vision of Shakespeare North is to celebrate the Elizabethan and Jacobean heritage of Knowsley, a place with historic links to the Earl’s of Derby and Lord Strange’s men. The Shakespeare North Playhouse will 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 thoroughly 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 Degree Programme in Shakespearean Performance Practice where students will be able to train in a reproduction of the 1629 Inigo Jones “Cock pit at Court” theatre alongside professional performance companies and actors. The Masters programme will be validated by Liverpool John Moores University.
The Playhouse will also offer significant development opportunities for the local community, from early-childhood to older years, and a comprehensive education programme for schools.
Funding of £11m has been secured, including £6m from Knowsley Council and £5m from the Government, which has been endorsed by Arts Council England. A Full Business Case has been submitted to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority’s Single Investment Fund for funding of £6.5m which will be considered shortly, and applications for further grant funding totalling £1m from other sources are also under way.
Knowsley Council’s Cabinet also agreed for the council to underwrite the funding gap over the construction period to enable the works to start whilst philanthropic, foundation and public fundraising continues.
Pre-construction work will start in April 2018 and building work is expected to be complete by William Shakespeare’s birthday in April 2020 with the theatre opening to guests and students later that year.