Middlesbrough Town Hall has been formally returned to the town following the biggest makeover in its 129-year history.
The historic venue is set to throw open its doors in May to welcome visitors for previews of its stunning £7.7m refurbishment.
The massive make-over has restored rarely seen elements of the Grade II listed building, refreshed performance areas and created a whole new visitor experience.
The scheme – funded by Middlesbrough Council and £3.7m of National Lottery funding through the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) – has seen the Town Hall closed to the public for almost two years to make way for painstaking restorations work.
And the venue – with capacity for up to 1,420 in the Main Hall and 570 in the Crypt – is already gearing up for an opening month that sees the likes of the Bruckner Linz Orchestra, Jason Manford, Jon Richardson, Russell Brand and Jools Holland visiting the town.
The main contractor Kier formally handed the building back to Middlesbrough Council after 13 months on site.
Middlesbrough Mayor Dave Budd joined senior councillors and officers, senior managers from Kier and representatives of the HLF for the formal hand-over and VIP tour of the completed project.
Councillor Mick Thompson, executive member for culture and communities, said: “Middlesbrough Town Hall is one of the region’s most important buildings, and this major restoration and refurbishment project has given it a whole new lease of life.
“Kier’s fantastic work and attention to detail have helped to reveal the true splendour and heritage of this magnificent venue.
“We now have a venue truly fit for the 21st Century and one I know will delight audiences from near and far.
“The Town Hall also has a key role to play in our bid for Tees Valley City of Culture 2025.
“It will be a major regional focal point for music, comedy and entertainment, as well has having a significant positive impact on other city centre businesses.
More than 200 workers have helped carry out a sweeping transformation over the last 13 months, including 47 separate sub-contractors.
During the project, the team has hosted nearly 800 visitors from local schools and other interest groups.
Brian McQuade, Kier Construction Scotland and North East managing director, said: “We’re extremely pleased to be handing the refurbished Town Hall back to Middlesbrough Council.
“It’s been a unique project to work on over the past 13 months and we’re delighted that with tremendous teamwork from Middlesbrough Council, and the consultants and subcontractors involved we have collectively brought the building back into use as well as creating a new visitor experience.
“It will be an asset to the town for years to come and we’re looking forward to seeing the historic venue re-open to visitors in May.”
Ivor Crowther, head of HLF North East which invested £3.7m into the redevelopment, 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 look forward to what promises to be an incredible opening month and Middlesbrough Town Hall’s exciting future as a flagship culture and heritage hub.”
It’s less than 12 weeks to go until the venue welcomes the public with a series of events as part of its Opening Season, including a celebratory weekend of spectacular performances from Southpaw Dance Company.
The Town Hall also takes up a new status as a National Portfolio Organisation of Arts Council England, meaning 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.
“As April 1 approaches there are some exciting developments to the programme and we’re really looking forward to enjoying some excellent arts and cultural activity once it re-opens.”
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.
• Anyone wanting to see Middlesbrough Town Hall before it opens to the general public in May should visit the website to secure free tickets.
• Pictured (top, left to right): Brian McQuade, mayor Dave Budd receiving the key to the Town Hall, Jason Hartnell and Ivor Crowther, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North East.