The Shakespeare North Playhouse is an iconic new theatre, education, outdoor performance garden and an exhibition space to be built in Prescot. Its front doors will open onto the newly named ‘Prospero Place’, L34 3AB.
It will be a major visitor attraction, providing a distinctive asset for the Liverpool City Region, and a significant regenerative and place shaping opportunity, rebranding Prescot as a destination performance and market town.
Shakespeare North Playhouse has come about through robust academic research into the town’s past and takes us back over 400 years. Today’s ambitious project is completely of this place –it has a fascinating story that is unique to the town.
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Why is the council supporting the project?
Knowsley Council is delivering this major new playhouse development for the direct regeneration benefits it will bring to Prescot, Knowsley and the Liverpool City Region. The impacts expected reflect the transformational effects of an exemplary programme for inclusive growth built around a truly global brand.
The Shakespeare North Playhouse will be a distinctive, high quality addition to the visitor offer of the region, generating over 100,000 new visitors to the area each year from across the UK and internationally. It is estimated that the project will increase the value of goods and services produced in the city region by £13 million during construction and by £5.3 million each year following opening.
Other significant benefits include: new high quality jobs; strong growth in spending within the local economy; much increased footfall in Prescot town centre; new business investment in places to stay and eat and drink; a broad educational offer; attractive volunteering opportunities and improved access to world class cultural activity for young people and local communities.
How many jobs will be created?
The Playhouse is expected to create 20 permanent full time equivalent, high quality jobs. Across the region, the project will create some 175 net additional full time equivalent jobs. During the building period, in the region of 185 temporary construction jobs will be created.
Why is it being built in Prescot?
Prescot has a unique history and heritage of international, national, regional and local interest and importance. The only place in England (outside London) to have an indoor playhouse, in Elizabethan times, was Prescot!
Academic researchers have looked into this over a number of years and uncovered some fascinating facts about Prescot and its importance to the world of English theatre at a key point in the development of the art form. This research has also told us a lot about everyday life in Elizabethan times.
The Shakespeare North Playhouse will celebrate the Elizabethan heritage of Knowsley. The support and patronage of the Earls of Derby at Knowsley Hall played a notable part in the development of English drama. Several of Lord Strange’s Men, under the patronage of Ferdinando Stanley (who became the fifth Earl of Derby), later formed part of Shakespeare’s own company at the Globe. So, Strange’s Men, who had performed at their home base in Knowsley, played a significant role in the development of Shakespeare, the world’s greatest playwright. The Prescot and Knowsley story is the prequel to the story of Shakespeare in London.
The Shakespeare connections, the significance of theatre patrons at Knowsley Hall and the site of the only indoor Elizabethan Playhouse outside London makes Prescot the perfect place to build this iconic playhouse.
Where will it be built?
The location of the Shakespeare North Playhouse has been carefully considered. Its location, on the site of the former Mill Street car park and near to the former museum (now called Cockpit House), is close to the site of the original Elizabethan Playhouse and has been the catalyst for a range of refurbishments and renewals in the historic heart of Prescot.
Will anything be demolished or re-located to make way for the Playhouse?
No buildings will be demolished to make way for the Playhouse. It is being constructed on what was a public car park.
There will be changes to the bus station to ensure this will best meet the needs of all residents and visitors.
What will the inside of the theatre look like?
The main theatre interior will follow an authentic Jacobean design, based on Inigo Jones’ Cockpit-at-Court, built in 1629. Inigo Jones was the greatest English theatre designer of his day. The image below is taken from the 3D model for the project.
Why does the outside of the Playhouse look so modern?
While it is important to remain true to the Jacobean design for the auditorium, this iconic structure must be fully accessible and sustainable in line with contemporary standards. The modern building will, in effect, ‘wrap around’ the auditorium and ensure the whole facility:
- meets the needs of all potential users;
- complies with current building regulations; and
- is energy efficient.
The interior will also be provided with padded seating and air cooling unlike the 17th century original!
In essence, the Jacobean theatre will be the ‘jewel’ in the centre.
What facilities will there be in the building?
This venue is intelligently designed to be highly flexible and suitable for many different uses. At its heart will be the reproduction Jacobean auditorium which will have a number of formats (end-on, thrust and in-the-round) and will be a key part of the artistic and visitor experience. The wide and varied artistic and cultural programme will offer something to excite and engage people of all ages. The whole building will be a visitor attraction with exhibitions, displays and experiences throughout with the historic auditorium as the gem in the centre. Visitors can explore the area’s link to Shakespeare and the development of Elizabethan theatre through interactive activities and artefacts from local and national collections. The education spaces, studio and wonderful performance garden will offer both formal and informal life-long learning opportunities and other cultural activities. Visitors can also enjoy food, drinks and celebratory events in and around the building.
When will building work start and the Theatre open?
Work has started, you can join us in 2022!
The first performances are scheduled for Summer 2022 and will be the highlight of Knowsley’s year as Liverpool City Region’s Borough of Culture.
Will there be disruption in the town centre during construction?
Inevitably with regeneration on this scale and the significant number of development projects happening around Prescot (Eccleston Street public realm improvements, Townscape Heritage Initiative and Shakespeare North Playhouse) there will be some time limited changes to normal access and services. However, Knowsley Council is working very closely with all developers, residents and the business community to minimise the impact of these on town centre life.
What courses will be available?
There will be formal and informal courses and educational opportunities for people of all ages. Longer term, at the highest formal level, it is being proposed that Masters Degree programmes will be offered.
What types of performance will it offer?
The Playhouse will offer a year round programme of co-produced theatre, visiting productions, student and community theatre and other cultural activity including music, comedy, spoken word, lectures, dance and streamed performance.
Will the building be available for community use?
Yes, various spaces around the building will be available for community use and celebratory hires, wherever possible.
Where will visitors park?
There is a range of existing short and long stay car parks around the town centre for visitors to use and Prescot has great public transport links. £7.5 million of funding from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has been allocated for major upgrades to Prescot train station and transport connections in the town.
How has the Theatre been funded?
Shakespeare North Playhouse is being created through a mixture of public, private and philanthropic funding. Knowsley Council has contributed £12.2m, National Government has contributed £5m and the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has contributed £10.5m. As part of the philanthropic funding, the Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation Trust has made a generous contribution to fund the wonderful performance garden. Sir Ken was a Patron of Shakespeare North Trust and his legacy will continue with support from his wife Lady Anne.
We have been delighted by the level of support and interest from people around the world and a public fundraising campaign will be launched very soon.
What investment are we already seeing in anticipation of the opening of the Theatre?
The Playhouse is already having a massive positive effect in Prescot town centre. Since 2018, a number of new food and drink venues have opened to complement the existing and long standing town centre businesses. Here is a flavour of some of the new businesses – Pinion Bistro, Imaginarium Bistro, Spice Chill, Oven Pizzeria, the café Down in Albion and bars Urbano Chiringuito, The Lord Strange, Harringtons, The Bard and Eden.
Additional investment in Prescot includes £3.2 million of Heritage Lottery funding secured for the Prescot Townscape Heritage Initiative which is transforming the buildings and streetscene in the town centre.
Work has already started on improvements to Prescot train station and pedestrian links to town centre and playhouse, following £7.5 million funding from Liverpool city Region Combined Authority.
Plus 1,500 new homes are being built in the area by a number of national house builders.
I would like to support the Playhouse – how do I become a Friend of Shakespeare North?
You can register to become a Friend of Shakespeare North and receive project updates by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org