Middlesbrough Town Hall is poised to throw open its doors in May to welcome people from across the North East for previews of its £7.7m refurbishment.
The popular venue has undergone the biggest refurbishment in its 129-year history, restoring rarely seen elements of the Grade II listed building and giving new energy to what Council leaders are calling a Town Hall for the 21st Century.
Middlesbrough Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund have funded the capital investment project which has meant the Town Hall has been closed to the public for almost two years while painstaking restorations have taken place which will reveal the true splendour and heritage of the building.
Areas never previously accessible have been restored, including a Victorian courtroom sitting alongside the 1,600-seater auditorium.
And the venue is already gearing up for an opening month that sees the likes of Bruckner Linz Orchestra, Jason Manford, Jon Richardson, Russell Brand and Jools Holland visiting the town.
Thanks to National Lottery players, the Heritage Lottery Fund has invested £3.7m into the redevelopment.
Ivor Crowther, Head of HLF North East, said: “We’re proud that money raised by National Lottery players has enabled this iconic local landmark to be restored for the people of Middlesbrough and beyond.
“We are eagerly awaiting the official opening, which will afford access to areas never-before-possible, and secure Middlesbrough Town Hall’s future as a flagship heritage site.”
In addition to its expanded events programme, the Middlesbrough Town Hall team is planning brand new entertainment, participation and community events that mean there truly is something for everyone.
Councillor Mick Thompson, Middlesbrough Council’s executive member for Culture and Communities, said: “The fully restored Middlesbrough Town Hall is truly a venue for the 21st Century, and one that will draw enthusiastic audiences from far and wide.
“It has been given a new lease of life as a major regional focal point for music, comedy and entertainment and I know it will be a big hit with audiences and performers alike.
“For the creative and the curious, for everyone who wants to feel inspired, welcomed and experience the very best in contemporary arts and culture, Middlesbrough Town Hall will be the place to be.”
It’s less than 12 weeks to go until the venue will welcome the public with a with a series of events as part of its Opening Season, including a celebratory weekend of spectacular performances from Southpaw Dance Company, entitled Erimus. Erimus takes its inspiration from Middlesbrough’s motto, We Shall Be, reflecting the exciting future of the Town Hall.
It will be an immersive theatrical production designed to show off as many features as possible within the Town Hall complex.
Robby Graham, artistic director of Southpaw, said: “With 200 local participants performing alongside professional dancers, Erimus will be a spectacular experience.
“Five performances over three days from May 25 to 27 will create an unforgettable and uplifting experience for Middlesbrough residents of all ages, who will be the main users of the Town Hall’s facilities in the years to come.
“We will be issuing a call for community cast very soon and can’t wait to start working with them!”
If you can’t wait until the end of May for the Town Hall’s official re-opening, there will be opportunities for ‘sneak-peeks’ , when the public will be invited to look around with their families and friends.
As Middlesbrough Town Hall reopens, it also takes up a new status as a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England. Coming into effect as of April 1 this year, this new status means an extra £249,000 per year from 2018 to 2022 to support programmes, events and projects that encourage creativity, diversity and inclusivity for everyone in the town.
Jane Tarr, Director North, Arts Council England, said: “We’re delighted that Middlesbrough Town Hall will be joining our National Portfolio for 2018-22 and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the restoration.
“The new Combined Authority for Tees Valley has shown a strong commitment to culture and I’m sure the Town Hall will be a valuable asset in providing both the community and visitors with a spectacular place to enjoy a wide variety of arts and cultural activity.”
• Anyone wanting to see Middlesbrough Town Hall before it opens to the general public in May, should visit the website to secure free tickets via middlesbroughtownhall.co.uk