- Campaign is final fundraising stage in £8.7m transformation project
- Darren Henley launches new website and crowdfunding platform
- Reception event held at the House of Commons by Will Quince MP
- Michael Ball backs the Mercury Rising fundraising campaign
The Mercury Theatre in Colchester yesterday held the official launch of its Mercury Rising fundraising campaign at the House of Commons as plans were unveiled for the £8.7m redevelopment of the building. Hosted by Will Quince MP for Colchester, guests included Minister of State for Culture Matt Hancock, Chief Executive of Arts Council England Darren Henley, former Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport John Whittingdale, and writer Nick Stafford. Theatre director Michael Grandage was also in attendance.
In January the theatre announced plans to redevelop its buildings and site, extending the Front of House area and building a new production, rehearsal, and community block which will house a learning and participation centre to extend educational and partnership work. All areas of the building will be fully accessible for the first time. The new facilities are scheduled to open in 2020.
With support from Arts Council England, Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council, the Mercury has already raised £7m. Mercury Rising hopes to inspire trusts and foundations, businesses and business leaders, and the local community to help raise the final £1.7m.
An independent economic impact study has shown that the Mercury supports over 100 jobs locally and brings £3.6m in to the local economy each year. A more opening and welcoming building, equipped with upgraded facilities will help the Mercury increase its contribution to the creative economy by creating a base for developing skills and employability, supporting the regional and national cultural ecosystem, as well as nurturing regional talent through the provision of business support. It will also create a regional production resource, with far greater use of the Mercury’s workshop and wardrobe facilities by other creative people and organisations.
Speaking at the event, Darren Henley, Chief Executive of Arts Council England said:
“To be truly successful, any major capital project must be about much more than a well-run construction project and a new building. It must be about the innovative art and new partnerships that are created, the communities who benefit, and the potential it can unlock locally, regionally, and nationally. The Mercury Theatre has an impressive vision for the future, one that contributes to Colchester as a whole. We are pleased to have been able to support its initial planning and look forward to receiving the theatre’s Stage Two application for funding.”
Daniel Buckroyd, Artistic Director of Mercury Theatre Colchester said:
“Following sustained audience growth in Colchester and on tour, and the launch of our creative learning and talent programme, the Mercury Theatre is at a tipping point. This is a moment of huge opportunity for audiences and theatre makers in Essex. This redevelopment will allow us to make major improvements which will have an impact on the local community for years to come.”
Star of Musical Theatre and Radio 2 presenter Michael Ball sent a message of support:
“I passionately support the progress of the Mercury Theatre and the important role that it plays in the development of regional arts communities and talents alike. It is essential to strive towards creating spaces and places for creative minds, performers and people seeking an avenue of expression or entertainment to have today and for future generations. To reconstruct the physical building brings with it the opportunity to open the doors wider and be a platform for local talent to shine to the nation.”
Chairman of Essex County Council Cllr John Aldridge said:
“I am very pleased to attend the House of Commons event on behalf of Essex County Council. Hosting this event in such a prestigious location is recognition of the significant impact the theatre’s work has not only in Colchester, but across the county as one of our key cultural landmarks.”
Cllr Tim Young of Colchester Borough Council said:
“This is a very exciting development for Colchester. The Mercury Theatre plays a huge part in the life of the town, not only in terms of its productions but also through the programmes it offers to all members of the community. This redevelopment will help them to continue to grow.”
A parallel project – Mercury Voices – will be created to digitise the Mercury Theatre’s archives, and to run an oral history project recording memories of the theatre from its inception in 1937 onwards.
At the event Minister of State Matt Hancock launched a new Mercury Theatre website, which has been designed by award-winning Colchester web agency This is Fever. The site includes a crowdfunding tool where audiences can click on parts of the building to sponsor anything from a £2 light bulb to a £2000 wall mirror. The site has been launched as a public beta, to be continually developed in response to audience feedback over the next three months.