NEXT month marks the start of an exciting chapter in the 127-year history of Tamworth’s landmark Assembly Rooms as the venue is set for its most dramatic transformation to date.
After entertaining generations of Tamworth people, as well as many visitors from far and wide, and hosting thousands of top name acts, the venue will close on February 8 to begin its modern makeover.
The theatre will be restored and extended in a major refurbishment programme designed to bring it into the 21st century, make it more attractive and improve access to visitors.
The regeneration is part of the ambitious £6.1million project by Tamworth Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council to develop a Creative Quarter in the heart of Tamworth town centre.
Work to the Assembly Rooms will include the creation of a café bar and exhibition space, a multi-use area, a new box office and new glazed double doors at the front of the building for a more welcoming and inviting feel. The café area will be open throughout the day to allow the building to be used to its full potential.
A brand new glass extension will be added onto the side of the building which will be used as a studio space and lit up at night.
The theatre’s windows – which have been covered over for a number of years – will be opened up to allow natural light into the auditorium and to complement the new glass frontage to Corporation Street.
Although the building is set to be closed for some 18 months, it will remain a focal point in the Arts & Events calendar with archeological digs, a touring exhibition and consultation programme all lined up for the coming months.
The archaeological excavations will take place in the car park next to the building – where the glass studio will be built – this spring, providing opportunities for volunteers to join in and hopefully make some exciting discoveries, as well as school trips to the site.
Then a touring exhibition will take to the road in the summer to share information about the building’s heritage and redevelopment plans. It will also provide the opportunity for people to have their say on the Assembly Rooms, and the Arts & Events programme as a whole, on issues including access, events and activities, heritage and displays.
The consultation will also take place online and through postal surveys and focus groups.
During the closure period Tamworth Borough Council’s Arts & Events team is committed to running a full programme of events which will use outdoor spaces and community venues and will be revealed in detail soon.
All current users of Tamworth Assembly Rooms will continue to receive full support from the Arts & Events team.
Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Economy, Cllr Steve Claymore, said: “This marks an exciting phase in the history of Tamworth Assembly Rooms and represents one of the biggest investments in our arts for a generation. It will secure the venue for future generations.
“We will be consulting on the plans and this will give people the chance to have their say about arts provision and entertainment in Tamworth for years to come.
“The refurbishment also gives us the unique opportunity to carry out some excavation work in the Assembly Rooms car park. Archaeologists believe the area around St Editha’s Church was at the heart of an Anglo-Saxon settlement, where the earliest church and a possible Saxon palace were located, so there is a fair chance that something will be found.
“This is a very exciting prospect and one which we are planning to share with school groups and other volunteers.”
As well as the refurbishment and extension of Tamworth Assembly Rooms, the Creative Quarter vision includes the transformation of the Philip Dix Centre into a Business and Enterprise Centre, the redevelopment of the Carnegie Centre as a restaurant and improvements to the library and surrounding area to create a new cultural hub.
The project will create around 100 jobs, attract additional private investment and potentially boost the town’s economy by an estimated £13million by 2019.
The Assembly Rooms will host one final show in the form of the 2016 Tamworth Gang Show, which will be performed between February 3 and February 6 by more than 80 young people from Scout and Guide units across the borough.
Tickets for Tamworth Gang Show performances are priced at £8, £6 concessions, and are available online at www.tamworthartsandevents.co.uk, from the Tourist Information Centre in Corporation Street or by calling the Box Office on 01827 709618. A transaction fee of £1 is payable on all online and telephone bookings.