Hammers and trowels are being packed away by construction teams - as a much loved local venue prepares to re-launch itself onto the Teesside cultural scene.
The Georgian Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees has been undergoing an incredible £1.4M refurbishment – and the charity which has run the venue for nearly 25 years, Tees Music Alliance (TMA), is chomping at the bit to make its return to action.
TMA Chief Executive, Paul Burns, explains the excitement:
“We’ve been watching the works from our offices next door; and it’s been a long six months – not because of impatience, but because all of us here are really, really looking forward to working in the new place.
“It’s going to be a great place for performers, audiences and everyone else who comes through the doors – anyone who visited the old venue will still recognise the place – but will appreciate the new additions such as our increased bar spaces, comfy seating areas and nicer toilets.”
The refurbishment to the building was made possible by its owners, Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council – along with a generous National Lottery grant as part of a ten month refurbishment which saw the 250 year old theatre being combined with a disused hotel next door to create a more comfortable, better laid out venue.
“The theatre used to be capped at 200 people – not for safety reasons; but because of the amount of toilets we could fit in. The new venue can now hold 300 – which has an impact on the stature and quality of artists we can programme – more audience space, means more ticket sales, which results in us being able to afford higher profile artists.”
TMA Programming & Production Manager, Chris Cobain continues:
“Having the extra crowd capacity has already meant that we can bring in artists such as The Wedding Present, Shed Seven and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas – which is great for the cultural offer in Stockton – and Teesside as a whole.
“People will also see a difference in how the venue runs on show days - previously, ticket holders had to queue outside and wait for doors to open. Now; they’ll be able to come inside, enjoy a few drinks – even have a bite to eat – and then make their way in a relaxed fashion to the main room to watch the artists perform.
“With our new range of drinks – not previously possible in our tiny old bar - we expect people to stay around longer and socialise in one of our comfy areas.”
The venue re-opens this Friday, 24th March, with a Quadrophenia style event; with appearances from The Wedding Present, Shed Seven, Alabama 3, The Wonder Stuff, Vin Garbutt, and The Urban Voodoo Machine following on over the next few months – and with the venue returning as a key player in Easter’s Stockton Calling music festival.
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Arts, Leisure and Culture, Councillor Norma Wilburn, said:
“Stockton stands out from the crowd when it comes to events and entertainment and The Georgian Theatre is a key part of its thriving and growing live music scene.
“The newly refurbished building will complement other existing venues in the town centre as well as the pubs and bars where live music can often be enjoyed.
“There’s no doubt the expanded and revamped Georgian Theatre will help the town attract more popular and bigger acts and artists that ever before, in turn encouraging more people to visit Stockton Town Centre and enjoy all it has to offer.
“The new glass exterior looks stunning and I can’t wait to see how the interior space has been transformed too.”
As part of the refurbishment the Georgian Theatre was expanded into the neighbouring former Courtyard Hotel building. Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council allocated £414,000 funding through Stockton’s Grants for Heritage Buildings scheme, which is supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) thanks to money raised by National Lottery players.