Nuneaton Needs A New Arts Complex.
For more than five years the Nuneaton Arts Council (NAC) has been trying to work with Nuneaton and Bedworth Borough Council (NBBC) to make a dream proposal a reality – that of the design and build of a brand-new arts complex inside the town’s ring road.
After NBBC told the NAC in 2011 that the current Abbey Theatre building was approaching the end of its sustainable life, they invited us to start talks to look at the project, something we embraced wholeheartedly as we have felt for some time now that we are fast outgrowing the current facilities. Considering the ever-increasing success of the Abbey Theatre in the past few years, despite the out-of-the-way location, the only way we can significantly improve on what we have will be to take on a new build.
As a result the NAC produced a bold proposal for a new arts complex which not only catered for the current schedule of programming but allows for the ever-increasing diversity of professional and amateur content that the town deserves. With ideally three separate functional performance spaces, purpose designed rehearsal facilities and meeting rooms and facilities for a variety of arts and community activities, this would be a venue that would serve the town well.
NBBC have various sites identified around the town centre, several of which could be ideal candidates for the new build, some of which were owned by the local authorities, others by private landowners.
Our next step was to research suitable consultants for our project, their first job being the commissioning of a full feasibility study based on the detailed proposals that we had outlined. After meeting with three arts industry heavyweights, we selected our preferred company – DCA (David Clark Associates) – who agreed that our plans were bold and exciting, but certainly achievable.
One thing that was clearly identified as being essential to the success of any future funding applications was the importance of direct support from both borough and county councils for the feasibility study. Initially, getting that support confirmed by both local authorities was proving problematic, BUT following a concerted effort from the NAC and our supporters raising the issue directly with councilors it now looks like we may be very close to jumping this latest hurdle and being close to getting the feasibility study off the starting blocks.
What we are proposing is not just a replacement theatre, but a whole new complex which can provide facilities for a wide range of arts based organisations in the town.
We do want to build three separate performance spaces which can cater for the increasing number of events that we are hosting, but that can be multi-purpose enough to cover educational and corporate events as well.
Potential partners include several of the local schools/colleges, the Warks County Music Service, visual arts groups who are desperate for quality affordable accommodation, dance schools who need state of the art studios to practice in, as well as building on business links we are forging even now to provide corporate facilities during the day. And ideally as part of the educational provision we’d like to include recording studios, video and graphics editing facilities. Office space for volunteer groups can also form part of the complex, bringing a ream of different arts and community based organisations under one roof.
We truly want this to be a multi-purpose venue that the town can be proud of.
You can read for yourself what we’ve put in the proposal.
And more than that, we believe that the building of such a high-profile venue INSIDE the ring road will be perhaps the biggest catalyst for rejuvenation of the town centre. Which seems to be something that the NBBC cannot seem to recognise. This singular project could (and indeed should) bring in MANY more people to the town both during the day and night-time which will mean there’s a greater chance of them staying on (or arriving early) to use shops and restaurants/bars in the vicinity, some of which may well spring up as a direct result of the new building.
So, what do we want you, the community, to do?
We KNOW that managing the new venue – in whatever form it might eventually take – is going to have to be very different from what we do now. Whilst we are wholly volunteer run presently, there would have to be a combination of salaried staff and volunteers.
We KNOW it’s going to be a long arduous struggle to get this from draft to completion.
Amongst other things, the feasibility study will be vital in proving that:
a) we’ve got the right ideas to start with,
b) what elements are viable within the limitations of practicality and potential funding and
c) how best the management of the new venue will need to be structured to give it a sustainable future.
Thanks in advance for your help.
The Management team of Nuneaton Arts Council