Mercury receives green light on exciting redevelopment project

New building

The Mercury Theatre has received planning approval from Colchester Borough Council for its Mercury Rising scheme.

Mercury Rising, the Mercury Theatre’s £8.9m refurbishment and extension project, has received unanimous approval from Colchester Borough Council’s planning committee. The project aims to modernise and transform our much-loved theatre, safeguarding its future for the whole community.

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 you can work and meet friends
  • Building completely new rehearsal and community spaces equipped to support the best new talent
  • Revamping and extending our backstage facilities so we can make even better theatre

The planning application, which was approved last night (Thursday), received several notes of support, including those from 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 which 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.”

Having received planning approval, 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.

With several large trusts and foundations, sponsors, and strategic funders due to publish their funding decisions over the next few months, there is big fundraising news still to come as the Mercury is seeking to raise between £1.9m and £2.9m by 2021.

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.”

Cllr. 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. It is also a vital contributor to Colchester’s communities through being an active member of local trade associations, and being a vibrant centre for the arts through organising and hosting events for people of all ages to get involved in.

“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.”

Cllr. Tim Young, Deputy Leader of Colchester Borough Council and Portfolio Holder for Business and Culture said:

“The importance of the creative industries, arts and culture to our town cannot be stressed enough. While other towns are seeing the closure of creative venues and businesses, as well as reduced arts education opportunities, we are delighted to be supporting the Mercury as it seeks to grow and improve its facilities for the benefit of Colchester and Essex.”

Building work for the project is due to commence in 2018, with the new building opening in early 2020. During much of 2019, all theatre activities will move off-site, with an exciting array of programming and our full range of participatory work continuing in a temporary home.

Those wishing to support the project can do so via the Mercury’s website – by sponsoring a bronze, silver or gold brick; adopting a seat; sponsoring equipment for the new building; becoming a Friend of the Theatre; becoming a Corporate Partner, and more:


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