New-look Alnwick Playhouse receives a warm welcome after £3.3million renovation

The reopening of Alnwick Playhouse, one of the town’s most popular and well-loved buildings, has been welcomed following its £3.3million renovation.

Monday, 6th January 2020, 1:25 pm
Updated Wednesday, 8th January 2020, 3:14 pm
Councillors Cath Homer and Gordon Castle, Alnwick Mayor Lynda Wearn, Leader of Northumberland County Council Peter Jackson, chairman of the Playhouse Trust, Chris Sayers and manager of the Playhouse, Jo Potts.

The building now houses a community hub with a cafe, library and visitor centre on the ground floor.

The bar and gallery have also been refurbished and the rebuilt auditorium incorporating features such as hand rails and seats with ample leg room.

The famous spiral staircase has also been given a modern facelift.

Northumberland County Council has contributed £2.5million towards the cost of the work, with the Playhouse raising a further £800,000.

A grand opening weekend of events included family-friendly events, free drop-in activities, behind-the-scenes tours, film screenings and workshops to ensure there was something for everyone.

The Alnwick Forum also held a special drop-in session on Saturday so members of the public could hear in more detail about the aims and future challenges for the Playhouse.

Peter Jackson, leader of Northumberland County Council, said: “Alnwick Playhouse is very much part of the community and now has a huge future ahead of it.

“By integrating services that work together – a library, visitor centre, a theatre and a cafe – into the building, we have made it a much more viable operation and it will be open to the public every single day. ”

Chris Sayers, chairman of the Alnwick District Playhouse Trust, said: “We are incredibly lucky to have a Playhouse like this.

“The finished results are absolutely stunning and will preserve and protect the Playhouse for future generations.

“The council had great vision to come up with this remarkable project and it has been a real partnership effort to realise this dream and restore and repair it to the highest of standards, bringing the whole building back to life.”

And he joyously announced to the first audience of the new era that the Trust’s fund-raising target of £800,000 had been reached on Christmas Eve.

The curtain-raiser on Saturday was an evening of Northumbrian music, old and new, featuring renowned folk muscian and composer Alistair Anderson and his band, to celebrate the opening in fine, traditional style.

The concert, which also saw the new-look theatre’s first full house, included a special song composed especially for the opening by Katie Doherty and A Lindisfarne Gospel, a moving piece written by Alistair and commissioned in 2014 by Rev Paul Collins, the then vicar of Holy Island.

Coun Cath Homer, cabinet member for arts, leisure, culture and tourism said: “The building will continue to be a real focal point for the town, bringing the community together under one roof.

“I am confident the new and improved Playhouse will continue to be well used by local residents and visitors for many years to come.

Alnwick councillor and Playhouse Trust board member Gordon Castle added: “I used to come to the Playhouse when I was just six years old and it was a very popular back then, and I am delighted to say that it still is.

“Over the years, the offer of the Playhouse has expanded with plays, shows, films and events, but unfortunately the building was failing and needed a lot of repairs.

“The roof was leaking and the electrics weren’t great.

“With the persistence and commitment of a whole range of partners we have been able to restore the building and create a fantastic arts and cultural centre for the north east of the county.”

He added: “I am proud to have been the county council appointed board member of the Playhouse Trust for over five years and to have played an active role in getting to where we are today.”