The Shakespeare North Playhouse is an iconic new theatre and education space planned to be built on the current Mill Street car park in Prescot.
It will be a major visitor attraction, the first of its kind in the Liverpool City Region, and a significant regenerative and place shaping opportunity for Prescot as a destination performance and market town.
The following questions and answers will help you to find out more.
Why is the council supporting the project?
Knowsley Council is supporting the Shakespeare North Trust to deliver this major and significant project for the direct regeneration benefits it will bring to Prescot, Knowsley and the Liverpool City Region as well as the transformational effect such a global brand and project will have.
Shakespeare North Playhouse will be a distinct, high quality addition to the visitor attractions of the region, generating approximately 111,000 new visitors to the area each year from across the UK and indeed the globe. It is estimated that the project will increase the value of goods and services produced in the city region by £13 million during construction and by £5.3 million each year.
Other significant benefits include: new high quality jobs; an increase in spending in the local economy; an increase in footfall in Prescot town centre; new business investment in places to stay and eat or drink; a strong educational offer; and improved access to excellent culture for our young people and local communities.
How many jobs will be created?
The Playhouse is expected to create 20 permanent full time equivalent high quality jobs. Across the region, the project will create some 175 net additional full time equivalent jobs. During the building period, in the region of 185 temporary construction jobs will be created.
Why is it being built in Prescot?
Prescot has a unique history and heritage of international, national, regional and local interest and importance.
400 years ago the small Northern English town of Prescot was the site of the only known purpose-built indoor playhouse outside London.
At the time, the Earls of Derby at neighbouring Knowsley Hall had an important connection with William Shakespeare. The support and patronage of the Earls of Derby at Knowsley Hall played a notable part in the development of Shakespearean drama. Lord Strange’s Men, under the patronage of Ferdinando Stanley (who became the fifth Earl of Derby), later formed part of Shakespeare’s own company at the Globe. So, Strange’s Men, who had performed at their home base in Knowsley, were important to the world in which Shakespeare became the world’s greatest playwright. The Prescot and Knowsley story is the prequel to the story of Shakespeare in London.
Academic researchers have looked into this over a number of years and uncovered some fascinating information about Prescot and its importance to the world of theatre. This research has also told us a lot about the world in Elizabethan times.
Shakespeare North Playhouse will celebrate this compelling story of early Shakespearean and Elizabethan history and also modern theatre. The Shakespeare connection, the importance of Shakespeare’s patrons at Knowsley Hall and the site of the only indoor Elizabethan Playhouse outside of London makes Prescot the only place to build this iconic playhouse!
It brings a new cultural dynamic to Northern England by creating a local, regional, national and international cultural facility providing a focus for regeneration in the region.
Where will it be built?
The location of the Shakespeare North Playhouse has been carefully considered. Its location, on the site of the current Mill Street car park and near to the former museum (now called Cockpit House and part of the campus for Shakespeare North), is not far from the location of the Elizabethan Playhouse and works well to create a cultural quarter with the Church.
Architecturally the building has two identifiable components: the cubic form housing an historic reproduction of a Jacobean theatre and a wrap-around to this ‘auditorium’ containing 21st century service and educational facilities.
The surround building will have a life of its own, with flexibility and overlap of space for students, performers and the community giving it a continuous and visible vitality.
The building is made from the same stone as the nearby Jacobean Church, while its part glass façade offers views and connectivity inside and out to the new cultural spaces. The interior of the auditorium will be crafted to the historic records for the Tudor cockpit and the Inigo Jones’s theatre created in 1628.
Will anything be demolished or re-located to make way for the Playhouse?
No buildings will be demolished to make way for the Playhouse, however, the Shakespeare North Playhouse will be built on the Mill Street car park. The current taxi rank next to Mill Street will be re-located on Market Place to enable Shakespeare North Playhouse to be built and accessed.
There will be changes to the bus station to ensure the Playhouse and the Bus Station work well together for all residents and customers.
What will the inside of the theatre look like?
The main theatre auditorium will be an authentic Jacobean design, based on Inigo Jones’ Cockpit-at-Court, 1629. Inigo Jones was one of the greatest English architects and theatre designers of his day. The 350 seat theatre will be similar to this artist’s impression below which we are sure you will agree looks stunning.
Why does the outside of the Playhouse look so modern?
It is important to construct and remain true to the authenticity of the reproduction Jacobean design whilst also ensuring this iconic structure of global interest is accessible and indeed sustainable in standing the test of time. The modern building will, in effect, wrap around the auditorium whilst ensuring the building:
- meets the needs of all potential users;
- complies with current building regulations; and
- is energy efficient.
What facilities will there be inside the building?
This wonderful venue is cleverly designed and will be flexible for different uses. At its heart will be the reproduction Jacobean theatre. The education facilities, studio space, exhibition area, café/bar and outdoor area will enable a range of education and community activities to take place – including performance. Importantly, there will be education facilities for students studying for a post graduate Masters degree in Shakespearean performance.
When will building work start and the Theatre open?
Kier Construction has been appointed to build the Shakespeare North Playhouse and work is expected to start on site in spring 2018 with a view to completing the construction work in time for Shakespeare’s birthday in April 2020. There will be a transition period during the summer of 2020 when we can test out the running of the Theatre with the intention to host the first students to commence in October 2020.
What company will be building the Playhouse?
Kier Construction has been appointed as as preferred construction partner to build the iconic Shakespeare North Playhouse in Prescot town centre. The construction group has extensive experience building theatres, including the recently completed refurbishment and redevelopment of Chester Storyhouse.
Will there be disruption in the town centre during construction?
Inevitably with regeneration on this scale and the significant number of development projects happening around Prescot (Market Place, THI and Shakespeare North) there will be disruption. However, we are working really closely with all developers and the business community to minimise the impact of this disruption on the Town Centre.
What courses will be available?
There are plans to offer opportunities to members of the community from early-childhood to older years for learning, personal development, gaining skills, volunteering and acquiring qualifications. It is being proposed that two Masters degree programmes in Shakespearean Performance Practice, for up to a total of 40 students, will be offered.
What types of performance will it offer?
The Playhouse will offer a year round programme of co-produced theatre, visiting productions, student and community theatre.
Will the building be available for community use?
The theatre will be available for community and student use. There is also a studio space within the building which will be available for schools and community use, conferences and other events.
Where will visitors park?
There is a range of existing short and long term car parks around the Town Centre for visitors to use.
How has the Theatre been funded?
Knowsley Council has contributed £6m, the National Government has contributed £5m and we are anticipating the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority will contribute £6.5m. Applications to Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England are also being made. This leaves a gap of £5.9m which will be funded from philanthropic giving, private donations , foundation fundraising and further grants applications which the Shakespeare North Trust are responsible for. The Trust has established a fundraising charity called Shakespeare North Playhouse Trust (Registered Charity Number 1172498).
I would like to support the Playhouse – how do I become a Friend of Shakespeare North?
You can register to become a Friend of Shakespeare North and receive project updates by contacting Shakespeare North Trust.
Or you can complete a paper form available at Prescot Heritage Hub, 53 Eccleston Street, Prescot, L34 5QH. Completed forms will be collected by Shakespeare North Trust.
If you have any other questions, please email ShakespeareNorthEnquiries@knowsley.gov.uk