Cultural Capital Kickstart success will enable our transformed theatre to reopen

Mercury Rising

Together with Colchester Borough Council, we are celebrating following the announcement that we have secured an award of £864,000 from Arts Council England as an investment in Colchester that will enable the theatre to be completed and re-open following our £10 million Mercury Rising refurbishment project.

The Cultural Capital Kickstart Fund has been created by Arts Council England, as part of the government’s wider Culture Recovery Fund, to assist Arts Council capital grant holders facing capital funding shortfalls as a result of the impact of Covid-19.

Due to the pandemic, theatres have experienced increases in Covid-19 related costs and seen a shortfall in income from both box offices and fundraising potential. The Mercury is a registered charity which relies on funding and ticket income to carry out its work on stage and within the community. With buildings closed to fundraising events and some private trusts and foundation funding being placed on hold or diverted, the opportunities to apply for assistance from external dedicated funding sources has been greatly reduced.
In the Mercury’s case, the effects of the pandemic directly extended the completion date of our theatre’s extensive capital works, with both logistical delays in workforce safety, materials and equipment, and the associated increased capital costs to the Mercury Rising project to transform the theatre into a fully accessible and vibrant Covid-safe environment following 18 months of construction work.

The completion and reopening of the Mercury will provide job security for our current staff (who have been retained throughout the pandemic) and provide further employment opportunities in Colchester, as we welcome returning audiences and those from further afield as a key destination for cultural tourists. The grant will also enable the council to bring forward the landscape works around the Mercury and Balkerne Gate area, making this area more attractive for our visitors.

Steve Mannix, Mercury Executive Director, said of the award: “This is incredibly welcome news – we are all overjoyed and thankful for this lifeline which will enable us to ensure we can now fully complete this vital transformation to our wonderful theatre, reopen to our audiences and return to making a vital contribution to the local economy of Colchester.”

“We are extremely grateful to Colchester Borough Council, DCMS and Arts Council England that this funding will enable us to finish this capital project and what we set out to do; complete the theatre’s transformation and prepare for a fully Covid-safe reopening as soon as possible. We cannot wait to share our re-imagined programme of events for the spring and welcome our audiences back to the Mercury, as soon as restrictions allow.”

“The public have been incredibly generous in their support of our fundraising efforts throughout our Mercury Rising campaign, including our recent text-giving and crowd funding campaigns, for which we truly thank them. We continue to value this wonderful support and will need our local community behind us more than ever as we open our doors to welcome everyone back!”

Will Quince, MP for Colchester, said: “I am delighted that the Mercury Theatre will be receiving an award of £864,000 as part of the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. We launched this £1.57 billion Fund earlier in the year in recognition of the huge challenges that our world-leading arts and culture sectors are facing due to the coronavirus pandemic.”

“The £864,000 funding will help finalise the Mercury Rising project, which includes the completion of our new and improved Mercury Theatre, and I hope people are as excited as I am to visit our theatre once again when it reopens.”

Councillor Julie Young, Portfolio Holder for Culture and Performance and Deputy Leader of Colchester Borough Council, said: “This is tremendous news! The Mercury is a vital asset to the Arts in Colchester. The importance of the Arts and Culture to our town cannot be stressed enough – not just for the obvious reason that they enrich our lives, but because of the significant economic contribution they make to Colchester as the creative capital of Essex.”

“That is why we are proud to have supported the Mercury to expand and improve its facilities for the benefit of Colchester and the region. I can’t wait for its doors to reopen and the return of live theatre performance events in the coming months.”

Jon Morgan, Director of Theatres Trust, the national advisory body for theatres, said; “Theatres Trust is delighted that Mercury Theatre has received funding from the Culture Recovery Capital Kickstart Fund. Its Mercury Rising project to provide an improved and more inclusive civic space is exactly the sort of works we had in mind in our conversations with the government about the urgent need to support capital projects impacted by the pandemic. Investment like this in our country’s network of theatres is crucial if they are to remain fit for purpose and make a major contribution to the country’s post-Covid recovery, promoting wellbeing and a sense of place, animating the high street and contributing significantly to local businesses and the wider economy”.

Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, said:“This government promised it would be here for culture and today’s announcement is proof we’ve kept our word.

“The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs at cultural organisations across the UK, with more support still to come through a second round of applications.

“Today we’re extending a huge helping hand to the crown jewels of UK culture – so that they can continue to inspire future generations all around the world.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England said: “Today’s announcement is another vital step in securing the future of England’s cultural sector. Supporting capital projects will help to ensure that we maintain an innovative, sustainable cultural infrastructure that supports world class creative work, while the loans announced today will enable some of our largest and most prestigious cultural organisations to weather the effects of Covid-19 and reopen when it is safe to do so. The Arts Council is grateful to the Government for their support through the Culture Recovery Fund, and we are proud to support all the organisations receiving funding today.”

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