Liverpool’s Unity Theatre has a double celebration with the launch of major redevelopment works and news that it has secured extra funding.
Staff and leaders at the iconic Unity Theatre have handed over the keys to their beloved Hope Place building to contractors at the start of a £845,000 overhaul.
The exchange of contracts between Unity chiefs and contractors Vivark marks the first step in the transformation of the theatre and former synagogue which is due for completion in April.
The handover coincides with news of a further £60,000 in contributions towards the #BuildUnityBetter project.
Funders PH Holt Foundation and Garfield Western Foundation have committed £10,000 and £50,000 respectively to the major capital development work, with social enterprise First Ark Group also adding to the project funding.
The funding follows an initial £435,000 investment from Arts Council England, £120,000 from Liverpool City Council, £30,000 from the Granada Foundation and £2000 from the Ravensdale Foundation as well as over £20,000 in individual donations from Unity Theatre supporters.
The redevelopment of the city centre venue is the first major work to be carried out since 1998 and promises to open up Unity Theatre’s spaces with major alterations being made to public spaces including the entrance, foyer and first floor bar.
Improved soundproofing between its two performance spaces will allow both venues to be used together and create more opportunities for work and artist development, as well as increasing revenue.
Chris Bliss, head of Unity Theatre’s board and estate director at Liverpool ONE, said: “It’s incredibly exciting, after years of dreaming, scoping, fundraising and planning, to see the transformation of Unity Theatre set in motion.
“It means that in a matter months, we will see our collective vision of a 21st century theatre come to life.
“Once complete, Unity Theatre will be able to play an even bigger, more ambitious role in Liverpool, the region and beyond.”
Artistic director and CEO Matthew Linley said: “We’re all really grateful for the financial support we have received for Build Unity Better.
“It’s fantastic that the national development agency for the arts, our local council leaders, national grant-making trusts, local funders, corporate partners and scores of individual donors, have all recognised the vital contribution of Unity Theatre.”
Liverpool’s assistant mayor, Councillor Wendy Simon, said: “I’m delighted that work on Build Unity Better has started.
“Throughout its history, Unity has been a home for high-quality, radical theatre, making a vital contribution to Liverpool’s reputation as a word-class theatre city.
“The redevelopment work will make it possible for even more talented artists and theatre companies to present work in Liverpool and for locals and visitors alike to enjoy a quality 21st century venue.
“The redeveloped Unity Theatre will provide an even greater resource for audiences, local communities and artists of the future.”
Unity Theatre will still be bringing exceptional performance to Liverpool while the building is out of operation.
The Out of Space season is taking shows out and about to venues across Merseyside, including Liverpool Cathedral, Make Liverpool, Bluecoat, Capstone Theatre, and The Atkinson in Southport.