Dame Judi Dench, Cherie Booth QC and Tesco boss Sir Terry Leahy have spoken of their delight upon hearing the Royal Court Liverpool Trust has been successful in raising the funds to begin their massive refurbishment scheme.
Today (Friday, December 2) the theatre announced that their Heritage Lottery Fund application has been approved, and they will receive a grant of £867,800. This money means that the first phase of the £10.6m scheme to refurbish the building will begin on February 1, 2012.
The Royal Court, which has just opened its Christmas show Little Scouse on the Prairie, sees itself as as the people’s theatre in Liverpool, producing shows that attract a local audience that had not been catered for at other venues. They say the investment in the building is a great boost for the average person on the street, as well as the city as a whole.
Gillian Miller, founder and chief executive of the Royal Court Liverpool Trust said: “It’s a great honour to be able to head up the campaign to renovate one of the city’s best loved buildings. We now need to make sure that we get it right for all those who are served by the building. It is a hugely significant day in the history of the Royal Court Theatre and we are all delighted with the news.”
The Heritage Lottery Fund North West said the theatre plays an “important role in the cultural life of Liverpool.”
Work on the first phase is expected to be finished by summer 2012, including new contemporary cabaret seating, new lighting and the complete redecoration of the auditorium, and the team behind the work say it will make the Royal Court one of the best theatres in the country.
Dame Judi Dench, a patron of the Royal Court Trust said: “The Royal Court is one of our best loved regional theatres and especially dear to me. I made my stage debut here as Ophelia in the 1950s and it was a wonderful experience. I am delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund have decided to support plans for the first phase of the theatres regeneration and look forward to seeing the Royal Court start a new chapter in its rich history.”
Sir Terry Leahy said: “‘This is good news indeed for the Royal Court Theatre, for Liverpool and the North West Region. There is no doubt that the Heritage Lottery Fund support will help to unlock future funds to ensure that the theatre is completely renovated. The Royal Court Theatre has played an important role in Liverpool’s cultural life for nearly 200 years.”
Cherie Booth QC, campaign ambassador said: “The Royal Court means such a lot to the people of Liverpool. When I went to a production last year, I was delighted to see it so full of people enjoying a fantastic evening wholly produced in Liverpool. This grant will make sure that the building now receives some of the care and attention it so deserves and ensure that generations to come can enjoy the wonderful Royal Court Theatre.”
The Royal Court Trust was formed in 2008 to look after the building. In November 2010, it was granted a long lease on the building of 30 years from Liverpool City Council. This means that the Trust can start to access public funds and other sources of support such as private trust funds and foundations.
A £1 ticket levy was introduced in March 2010 on all tickets to shows. This has raised over £200,000 to date, which has been used as match funding for the Trust’s second round Heritage Lottery application. The scheme will be phased to ensure that the theatre does not close to audiences for any longer than a few months at a time.
The Royal Court Liverpool Trust is a registered charity with the aims of safeguarding the theatre as a performance venue and engaging local communities with the wonderful Art Deco building and its rich history.
Kevin Fearon, chief executive of the Royal Court, said: “Once the work has been finished we hope that there will be no more queues at the toilets and much longer queues at the Box Office!”