Bristol Old Vic, Britain’s oldest theatre has won a £220,000 grant to kick-start its multi-million pounds renovation plans.
The venue has received a total of £220,500 initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to create a landmark project marking its 250th anniversary and transforming it into an internationally-significant heritage destination.
The grant will be used to support a nine-month period of development work in preparation for the roll-out of the project, which will herald a new era for the theatre.
Once initial work is complete, Bristol Old Vic will submit an application for a confirmed grant of £2.26m, with both phases totalling nearly £2.5m.
The project will bring to life 250 years of theatrical heritage, represented by both Bristol Old Vic’s historic architecture and its archives, held between the University of Bristol Theatre Collection and Bristol Record Office.
The renovation will see the complete refurbishment of Coopers’ Hall, the conservation of the original 18th century theatre façade, the protection of paper records and the creation of new public spaces and programmes, both on site and online.
Already recognised as a centre of artistic excellence, the UK’s oldest theatre will also become an important heritage attraction.
The initial money from HLF comes as Bristol Old Vic continues to drive forward its fundraising efforts in support of its final phase of its capital redevelopment, which has already attracted major capital grants from Arts Council England and Bristol City Council.
Of the £2.5m Bristol Old Vic hopes to secure from HLF, around £1.5m will go towards the £12m redevelopment works, and will be used specifically to restore and protect the heritage of the building.
Emma Stenning, chief executive at Bristol Old Vic, said: “We’re thrilled that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support as it will enable us to push forward with our exciting plans to transform the theatre into an internationally-significant hub of cultural and historical interest.
“This major redevelopment project will allow tourists, theatre audiences, day visitors and schoolchildren to engage with Bristol Old Vic’s fascinating heritage like never before.”
Nerys Watts, head of HLF South West, said: “We thought the Trust’s redevelopment project was very timely as it will ensure Bristol Old Vic is in great shape to mark its 250th anniversary.
“We’re hugely supportive of these plans to protect an 18th-century Bristol landmark and to open it up for many more people’s enjoyment”.
The initial grant of £220,500 will enable Bristol Old Vic to carry out essential surveys to the plaster work in Coopers’ Hall and to test wall renovation techniques for the 18th century theatre façade.
The historic thunder run, a tunnel sat high above the theatre ceiling where metal balls would have been rolled from one end to the other to create the sound of thunder, will be surveyed and tested prior to its eventual repair.