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The Shakespeare North Playhouse

Shakespeare North Playhouse wins at North West Royal Town Planning Institute Awards

by Guy Murphy

Knowsley Council’s ambitious plan to deliver a world class cultural venue and spearhead wider regeneration in Prescot has won the award for Excellence in Planning for Heritage and Culture and been declared the Best Overall Project at the North West Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) Awards for Excellence 2023.

Award judges commented that Knowsley Council’s Planning Department played an integral role in the delivery of the project, with the final scheme being a true asset to Knowsley, the wider North-West and the whole performing arts sector.

The North West Awards for Planning Excellence recognise and highlight the positive contribution planning professionals make in the communities we serve around the world.

When assessing the submission, the Judges’ commented included:-

“Crucially the judges found planning and the planners played an integral role in the delivery of this project. A decade in the making, it is a genuine plan-led scheme, enshrined in a SPD and secured through subsequent applications. Thankfully the final built out scheme has retained many of the original design features and it is a true asset to the people of Knowsley, the wider North West, and the whole performing arts sector.

As a regional winner, the project will now be going forward to compete in the RTPI Awards for Planning Excellence national awards with all category finalists being announced on October 9. The national awards ceremony will take place on 21 November 2023 in London.

The awards, now in its 46th year, showcase and celebrate the best plans, people and projects, recognising and highlighting the positive contribution planning professionals make in communities around the world.

The multi-million-pound Shakespeare North Playhouse is the only 17th-century style, timber-built “Cockpit” theatre outside London, able to seat 450 spectators.

The modern, energy-efficient building is also home to a fully accessible outdoor performance garden funded by the Sir Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation, exhibition gallery, 60-seater studio theatre, learning centre, events spaces, and a café and bar with outdoor piazza.

Since its opening, the Playhouse has welcomed more than 100,000 visitors, engaged with thousands of school children, and hosted more than 1,000 events and performances.

The Shakespeare North Playhouse development has also been the catalyst for significant economic growth and investment in Prescot. More than 1,000 new homes have been built, the bus and train stations have been transformed and historic buildings and spaces have been restored. The town has also benefited from public realm improvements, the installation of public art works and new bespoke paving which have all helped to attract new businesses, and bars and restaurants to create a burgeoning food and drink offer.

Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council, said:

“I am delighted that our planning team has been recognised with this industry award and we now look forward to finalists announcement in October.

“The development of the Shakespeare North Playhouse took many years of planning and vision from across a huge range of dedicated stakeholders who were supported by a team of dedicated Council Officers and their hard work has been an instrumental part in bringing to life this ambitious project.

“I would also like to thank the supportive team of experts and partners who worked collaboratively with us.

“It is clear that Prescot is a town on the up. The theatre has welcomed more than 100,000 visitors through its doors since opening night and the local economy is thriving.

“As a Council we a committed to making Knowsley a place where people want to live, work, invest and visit, and it’s clear that the Shakespeare North Playhouse is helping us to achieve that. Long may it continue.”

Melanie Lewis, Chief Executive at Shakespeare North Playhouse, said: “We are thrilled that Knowsley Council’s planning team has been recognised for this prestigious award for their work in the development of the Shakespeare North Playhouse. This recognition is a testament to the tireless efforts of our team, partners, supporters, and the community who have embraced our vision of making this ambitious project happen. Shakespeare North Playhouse stands as a beacon of cultural revival, blending history, art, and innovation to create a vibrant cultural hub for generations to come.’

Award winning Playhouse

Earlier this year, Shakespeare North Playhouse was named Theatre Building of the Year and in its opening week it was named Liverpool Sub-Regional project of the Year and Knowsley Council was named Client of the Year at the North West Regional Construction Awards.

Arts Council England recently confirmed the Playhouse as a “National Portfolio Organisation”, meaning that funding has been secured for three years – a great achievement recognising the Playhouse’s vision, high quality, and early impact.