The Mercury Theatre put on a full scale production at the House of Commons yesterday as it launched a last push to raise nearly £2m towards the £8.7m rebuild of the Colchester venue.
The Mercury Rising fundraising campaign unveiled its plans for the redevelopment at a top level launch hosted by Will Quince, MP for Colchester. Guests included Minister of State for Culture Matt Hancock, Chief Executive of Arts Council England Darren Henley, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale, and writer Nick Stafford. Theatre director Michael Grandage was also in attendance.
In January the theatre announced plans to redevelop its buildings and site, extending the Front of House area and building a new production, rehearsal, and community block which will house a learning and participation centre to extend educational and partnership work. The new facilities are scheduled to open in 2020.
With support from Arts Council England, Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council, the Mercury has already raised £7m. Mercury Rising hopes to inspire trusts and foundations, businesses and business leaders, and the local community to help raise the final £1.7m.
A recent study study has shown that the Mercury supports over 100 jobs locally and brings £3.6m in to the economy each year. It’s hoped that a more opening and welcoming building, equipped with upgraded facilities will help boost its importance to the area.
Speaking at the event, Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England said: “To be truly successful, any major capital project must be about much more than a well-run construction project and a new building.
“It must be about the innovative art and new partnerships that are created, the communities who benefit, and the potential it can unlock locally, regionally, and nationally.
“The Mercury Theatre has an impressive vision for the future, one that contributes to Colchester as a whole. We are pleased to have been able to support its initial planning and look forward to receiving the theatre’s Stage Two application for funding.”
Daniel Buckroyd, Artistic Director of Mercury Theatre Colchester said: “The Mercury Theatre is at a tipping point following sustained audience growth in Colchester and on tour, and the launch of our creative learning and talent programme.
“This is a moment of huge opportunity for audiences and theatre makers in Essex. This redevelopment will allow us to make major improvements which will have an impact on the local community for years to come.”
Councillor Tim Young of Colchester Borough Council said: “This is a very exciting development for Colchester. The Mercury Theatre plays a huge part in the life of the town, not only in terms of its productions but also through the programmes it offers to all members of the community. This redevelopment will help them to continue to grow.”
A parallel project – Mercury Voices – will be created to digitise the Mercury Theatre’s archives, and to run an oral history project recording memories of the theatre from its inception in 1937 onwards.