THIS year will see the launch of a new-look, modern theatre for the people of Tamworth and its visitors to enjoy as Tamworth Assembly Rooms undergoes its biggest refurbishment since it was built 130 years ago.
The multi-million-pound project is progressing well and is on track to welcome audiences through the doors of a more versatile, more accessible, state-of-the-art community and entertainment venue this autumn.
The main contractor, Novus Property Solutions, have been busy building extensions to the sides and rear of the theatre, carrying out masonry and roof repairs, moving internal walls, lifting floors, improving utilities, refurbishing and preserving the windows and other historic features and much more.
At busiest times, up to 30-40 tradespeople can be on site, including electricians, mechanical engineers, carpenters, bricklayers, theatre equipment specialists, ground workers, glazers, plasterers, metal stud workers, steel erectors and plumbers.
As well as starting work on the extensions, contractors have also laid the groundwork for improved facilities throughout the building including alterations to the roof space for improved heating and ventilation in the main auditorium, opened up and refurbished windows, lifted the flooring and laid new cabling for improved gas and electricity.
In the coming months, new flooring will be laid, traditional plaster work will be going back on the walls and the extensions will be made watertight.
The ambitious project to bring the historic building into the 21st century includes a complete change of the internal layout, apart from the main auditorium, to create an impressive, versatile building, with more space that can be used for a variety of purposes.
This includes extensions to the side and rear to add a new multi-use space, extra toilet facilities and an extended backstage area. As well as much-needed extra room, this will also provide opportunities for the theatre to be used for a wider range of events.
The aim is for the glass-fronted multi-use space at the front of the new extension to be used for a variety of events such as conferences, art exhibitions, galleries and meetings. During the evenings, it could be used for smaller events such as open-mic nights, poetry readings and comedy nights. On busy show evenings, the idea is for it to be used as a secondary bar area to the main café/bar which is being created on the other side of the building.
The rear of the extension will provide improved backstage facilities, including a glass-walled ‘green room’, practise space for performers and dressing rooms.
The difficult task of coordinating all the work is down to Novus site manager Mark McWilliams, who says making sure the right people and materials are on site at just the right time is a careful juggling act.
“It is very challenging, but I am enjoying it and it will be a lovely project when it’s finished,” Mark said.
“As well as the end result, I look forward to all the different stages of a project such as getting the roof on, getting the glazing sorted, seeing the walls going up – I look forward to all the components that make the end product.
“The key to a successful build is doing things in the right sequence, even if that means waiting for something to happen before the next job can take place, as this saves time in the long run.”
The construction phase of the project is being led by Novus Property Solutions, supported by Brownhill Hayward Brown Architects, Keelagher Okey Klein quantity surveyors, Cundall structural engineers and mechanical and electrical engineers BWB Consulting. The whole project is being managed by Rider Levett Bucknall UK.
The Assembly Rooms refurbishment is part of the wider £6.1m scheme to create a new Enterprise Quarter in the heart of Tamworth. This also includes a new restaurant in the Carnegie Centre and the development of a new ‘public realm’ open space.
It is being funded by the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent LEP Single Local Growth Fund (£2.95m), the Heritage Lottery Fund (£903,400), Arts Council England (£365,000) and the remainder from Staffordshire County Council and Tamworth Borough Council.
Cllr Steve Claymore, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Heritage and Growth, said: “This year marks the 130th anniversary of Tamworth Assembly Rooms. It was built to celebrate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria and has been entertaining audiences ever since.
“We have a duty to make sure this iconic building continues to thrive so that it can be enjoyed by many more generations of Tamworth people and visitors to the town. But for that to happen, the theatre has to be modernised and it has to diversify.
“As well as being brought into the 21st century in terms of accessibility, facilities and technology, the refurbishment will open the building up to a wider range of purposes, so it can be used by more people and at different times of the day, as well as big show nights.
“It’s great to see the new extensions taking shape and the building work progressing and we look forward to welcoming people back through the doors this year.”
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