LIVERPOOL City Council’s mayoral cabinet meeting on Friday (22/04/2016) will discuss plans for Royal Court to purchase the Penny Farthing Public House which will provide much needed new facilities for the Theatre. This will include a capital contribution from the council of £1.2 million.
The contribution will take the form of a loan which will be paid back to the Council as a part of a restructured lease with a revised, increased rental payment following the surrender of the existing lease.
The capital contribution will enable the Royal Court Liverpool Trust to buy the building with a short term plan to use it as a pre and post show bar and restaurant with additional facilities for the Youth Theatre and Community Choir as well as additional wardrobe and technical areas.
In the medium to long term, the Theatre will work with the 2015 Stirling Prize winning architects AHMM to explore refurbishment and remodelling options, including looking at integrating the building with the Theatre.
Earlier plans for the Royal Court included the building of a “pod” on the side of the theatre but the purchase of The Penny Farthing will be a more cost effective way of improving backstage facilities.
The Royal Court recently completed Act 2 of a three phase renovation, with Act 3 due to begin in 2017. To date the theatre has spent over £4m on the renovation, including an existing £2m loan from Liverpool City Council. The required £2m funding for Act 3 is almost in place with the Trust having been granted a first round pass to access support from Arts Council England’s Large Capital Grant scheme.
The Royal Court has been producing popular theatre since 2006. It attracts over 130,000 people each year and receives no public subsidy for its programme which has included work by some of the city’s most famous writers including Willy Russell and Alan Bleasdale. Over 95% of shows are created, produced and rehearsed in Liverpool resulting in a vibrant theatre with a real connection to local communities. The theatre is committed to producing high quality work, developing local talent and creating a unique brand of accessible theatre at affordable prices. This purchase of a new building will benefit the thousands of local people that visit the theatre each year and the many community groups that it supports.
Mayor Joe Anderson said: “The Royal Court Theatre is a valued cultural institution in the city and it’s important we do everything we can to enable them to grow and enhance their offer.
“Not only will it be an additional upgrade of the theatre, but it will have a direct impact on the surrounding area, removing an eyesore and improving the image for those coming in to the city from Lime Street Station or the tens of thousands of people who travel in to the city centre on buses.
“The transformation of the Royal Court to date has been incredibly impressive and this latest acquisition will continue to improve St George’s Quarter.”
Gillian Miller, Chief Executive of The Royal Court Liverpool Trust and Chair of the St George’s Quarter CIC said: “We are delighted that the Council are discussing the offer of a capital contribution to help The Trust to improve the area and invest in the community.
“The purchase of the Penny Farthing will help our Youth Theatre and Community Choir as well as improving the visitor experience of everybody who comes to the theatre and to St George’s Quarter. If we are able to purchase it, we are committed to investing in the building and soon it will look as good as the newly refurbished Royal Court.”
Kevin Fearon, Executive Producer of Liverpool’s Royal Court: “The plans for Act 3 of our refurbishment include developing our basement bar into a new performance space, leaving our Youth Theatre and Choir with nowhere to meet. The Penny Farthing can provide this important space for us. The theatre is growing and the whole area is improving and we are delighted that the Council are discussing this loan.”