Designs have been unveiled for an ambitious, multi-million-pound renovation of The Civic in Barnsley. Created by the HLM Culture team, the plans will restore the building to its former glory, open up the whole building for people to enjoy and transform it into a destination for the arts.
The Civic was originally constructed in 1877 to serve as the Barnsley Mechanics Institute and Public Hall, later becoming home to a public library, shops and events space. It closed to the public completely in 1998 and wasn’t reopened until 2009 with a new theatre space and contemporary art gallery. Today, it is Grade II Listed but only partly used and much of its grandeur is hidden from view.
The HLM Culture team undertook an in-depth analysis of the building’s surrounding environment and context, including planned developments within the town centre to inform its design. Working closely with Barnsley Civic Enterprise (BCE) Ltd – the Trust which owns The Civic, the community and wider stakeholders, a solution was then created that would preserve and protect the heritage of the town while exploiting the potential of this hugely important community asset.
As part of the restoration, the original Victorian entrance on Eldon Street will be reinstated, complete with a new bar, box office and space to relax. The historic features of the building including the façade and canopy, will also be carefully cleaned and revealed. There will be a new Studio Theatre in a double-height space with dressing rooms and rehearsal space as well as a flexible Events Space and extended Gallery. These will open up opportunities to offer more exciting arts events, exhibitions and shows and allow for multiple performance rehearsals to take place at the same time.
Sector lead for Culture, Patrick Arends, said: “This particular project will form a key component of the wider regeneration of Barnsley and is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the town to offer a greatly enhanced cultural offering. Attention to detail was paramount as was a collaborative and inclusive approach, benefiting from the history, knowledge and aspirations of the many stakeholders involved. The end result is a space to be proud of, which places local people at its heart, allows it to become a home for art and culture and ensures its longevity as a financially viable, sustainable centre fit for the 21st century.”
Helen Bell, CEO The Civic Barnsley said: “Our redevelopment plan is designed to create an arts centre that is accessible for all; a central events venue that everyone can enjoy. People will be able to come and see shows, enjoy exhibitions, attend dance classes and much more.”
Plans are currently developed to concept stage and require both planning permission and significant investment from public funding bodies to be secured. The total cost of the scheme is anticipated to be around £7.2 million.
£1.6 million for the Barnsley High Street Heritage Action Zone funding is expected to be confirmed in February, which will enable the work planned for the front of the building on Eldon Street to be completed.
While a significant challenge for a small charity, BCE hopes that fundraising through charitable grants and donations will raise the balance needed. It also plans to involve the local community, inviting them to see the plans, share their memories of the centre and their hopes for its future.
Steve Wragg, Chair of Trustees said: “We are at a really exciting position at The Civic, ready to move forward with our expansion to complement the work on the new Town Centre. We look forward to using the whole building to deliver a programme of work that the people of Barnsley will connect with and enjoy our growth with us.”