A dramatic change in the fortunes of The Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton has seen the reincarnation of the venue under new management with the venue likened to a Phoenix rising from the ashes.
Now, three years after reopening, new images showing how the theatre could be transformed from an outdated venue to the talk of the town are being unveiled.
Taunton Deane Borough Council, owner of the Taunton venue, has been working with Taunton Theatre Association (TTA) and partners on plans to expand and revitalise the 70s building. New plans will create a 21st century regional arts centre to enlighten, engage and entertain people, for generations to come.
The cost is expected to be around £20 million and the ambitious project could be delivered in three to four years subject to a funding package being secured from a variety of sources.
The plan was inspired by work with Arts Taunton in 2016 which illustrated what could be achieved to make the most of the space in the future. The venue would dovetail with the wider regeneration of the Coal Orchard area and add to Taunton’s arts and culture scene.
Councillor Mark Edwards, whose portfolio includes the arts, culture and business, said: “Our Council has a strong track record of supporting arts and culture, illustrated by its continuing support for the Brewhouse even through the dark days of 2013, when the venue was forced to close. We also support a wide range of cultural activities and events locally, such as the annual Somerfest taking place on 17 June 2017.
“It is great to see the venue forging ahead since those troubled times, under the new and excellent management of TTA. These plans reflect the shared ambition of the Council and TTA to take the Brewhouse Theatre and Arts Centre to a new level, as a regional venue in the South West.”
Councillor Roger Habgood, Executive Councillor for planning and transport, added: “We are really excited about these plans because they are not ‘pipe dreams’. They have been drawn up carefully with an eye to what will be commercially viable and deliverable in Taunton.
“The plans form part of a comprehensive regeneration of the whole Coal Orchard area - all about creating a vibrant and thriving new place on the River Tone that will be buzzing with activity at all times of the day and into the evening. Experts and architects have confirmed that there is ample space for the Brewhouse expansion as part of a wider comprehensive development, as envisaged in the Taunton Rethink.”
Working with specialist architects and theatre experts, the council can now reveal how The Brewhouse could transform to be the jewel on the River Tone. The improved venue will permit an enriched programme of live performances and activities for all, with improved acoustic for musical concerts, better facilities for national touring productions and exhibitions and 200 extra seats available for audiences for popular shows, including comedians.
The revitalised theatre would wrap around the existing, enlarged auditorium working in harmony to preserve the adjoining listed 18th century building. This would provide a range of new and modern spaces such as studios, cinema and gallery while making the most of the river frontage and creating the potential for pop-up performances, markets and events.
Vanessa Lefrancois, Chief Executive of The Brewhouse Theatre, said: “Leading the revival of The Brewhouse has been an exhilarating experience. Everyone should be able to access great art, it should not be due to an incidental postcode or happy coincidence. This is why The Brewhouse’s success is so important, we don’t simply want to survive, we want to thrive and in order to do that we need to be ambitious, brave and bold.
"The plans unveiled today will enable us to be all those things for the benefit of those who live, work or visit the region now and in the future. We are delighted to be working with Borough Council to turn our vision into a reality and become a vibrant regional hub growing and presenting world-class talent."
Val Hammond, who chairs Taunton Theatre Association (TTA), said: "We’re proud that nearly four years of innovative work with the support of the people of Taunton have enabled TTA to bring the Brewhouse back to life. We’re delighted now to work with the Council to create this visionary and versatile venue that will enable us to do so much more to bring high quality entertainment and culture of all kinds to the people of Taunton and the Region more generally."
The images and the evolution of the detailed plan illustrate the council’s commitment to The Brewhouse, the arts and their important role in Taunton’s evolving cultural story.
A lot of backstage work has taken place that helps set the scene for the next act to take the project forward. This will include working with partners to create a funding package as well as creating the final design and securing the right permissions to deliver the new centre.
“Securing the funds needed to deliver these ambitious plans for the Brewhouse expansion will not be easy, but having a viable and deliverable plan is a vital first step. The Borough Council is now committed to working closely with TTA, Arts Taunton and others to secure the necessary funds to bring our ambitions to reality,” said Councillor John Williams, Leader of the Council.