Green light given to Mercury Theatre’s £8.9 million makeover

Theatre bosses in Essex were celebrating today after planners backed their multi-million pound redevelopment scheme for Colchester’s Mercury Theatre.

Colchester Borough Council gave a green light to the Mercury Rising scheme at a meeting last night.

The Mercury Theatre’s £8.9m refurbishment and extension project aims to modernise and transform the popular venue for the demands and aspirations of the 21st century.

Planned improvements include:

· Transforming the foyer so it’s a bigger, lighter space which is open all day
· Redeveloping the main auditorium with extra seats
· Making all areas fully accessible for the first time
· Creating a new café where the public can work and meet friends
· Building completely new rehearsal and community spaces equipped to support the best new talent
· Revamping and extending the backstage facilities.

The planning application was backed by local residents, Historic England and the Theatres Trust, who wrote: “The Trust welcomes and supports this application for the refurbishment and extension of the Mercury Theatre.

“It will upgrade and renew the front and back of house facilities to improve the customer experience, encourage wider community use, and provide additional facilities to support productions and generate additional income.”

The Mercury is now awaiting final confirmation of its Stage 2 funding from Arts Council England, due to be announced this November. If confirmed, this will provide the project with a vital £3.5m.

Arts Council England, Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council are backing the project to the tune of a combined £6m.

In the first year of the Mercury Rising campaign the Mercury has raised £790,000 including donations and pledges from audience members.

Steve Mannix, executive director at the Mercury Theatre, said: “Receiving planning approval from the council is a fantastic boost for the Mercury Rising campaign.

“We are extremely grateful to everyone who has offered their support so far, enabling us to extend and develop the building for Colchester, and we’re confident that the new building will be a cherished space for the community.

“The Mercury works to be a welcoming, creative hub for all, and I’m so glad that we are one step closer to improving its facilities so that we can continue to offer top class theatre on Colchester’s doorstep.”

Councillor Paul Smith, leader of Colchester Borough Council, said: “The Mercury is truly an asset to Colchester’s local economy providing significant job opportunities and internships.

“I am confident that its redevelopment can only be a positive step for the town, ensuring our residents have access to the arts for many more years to come.”

Building work for the project is due to start next year with the new building opening in early 2020.

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