Transformation Plans for Whitby Hall, Ellesmere Port
20 March 2019Marking the World Day of Theatre for Children and Young People, plans for Action Transport Theatre are being revealed.
A Phased approach to restore and transform Whitby Hall, home of Action Transport Theatre, has been approved by Cheshire West and Chester Council. Architectural design studies have been carried out up to RIBA Stage 3, funded by the Council, demonstrating the potential to transform Whitby Hall into a world class, public facing centre for children, young people and their families.
Phase One of the scheme costing £1.950m will focus on stabilizing the building (including building repairs). A new 150 seat auditorium will be created including upgraded foyer/cafe areas. This will allow Action Transport Theatre to increase their impact in Ellesmere Port and to start to expand their programmes for children, young people and their families.
Phase Two of the plan will see further development of the building to include a small second studio, workshop space and extended foyer and cafe bar areas which connect with the parkland. It is estimated the full scheme would cost in the region of £4.8m.
Councillor Louise Gittins, Cabinet Member Communities and Wellbeing said: “This is an exciting project; we already have positive support following a number of public consultation sessions. We will engage the same design and construction team that delivered the award winning Storyhouse.”
The Arts Council launch a new small scale capital grant scheme in the Spring this year that Action Transport Theatre will be able to apply for up to £499,000 which can be used for loose equipment purchase.
Councillor Gittins added: “This is a competitive process and will be subject to the Arts Council having available funds. However, if it is successful this will enhance and increase the impact of the Council's investment. In addition the Theatre will continue to seek capital funding from other sources including Trust Foundations to extend and maximise our contribution.”
Whitby Hall is in a poor condition with areas suffering from damp and water ingress, in particular the studio and attic areas. Toilet facilities are inadequate and in poor condition and there are serious drainage issues which causing regular flash flooding in some parts of the building.
Nina Hajiyianni, Action Transport Theatre, Artistic Director said: “The building is becoming a major constraint and is limiting our ability to carry out core activities. If repairs and renovations are not carried out soon, we will be forced to consider the long term viability and will be forced to leave Whitby Hall.
“The restoration will enable us to continue the high quality, fully inclusive programmes for children and young people in Ellesmere Port and beyond.”
Action Transport Theatre is a valuable cultural asset for Ellesmere Port and the borough. Their work includes programmes for some of the most vulnerable young people in the region. Some of the many projects include an international young writers’ exchange with companies in Australia and Canada, critically acclaimed co-productions with the Unity Theatre and upcoming projects with Theatre Hullaballoo (Darlington) and Half Moon Theatre (London).
Their recent collaboration with the Lemn Sissay Foundation and Cheshire West and Chester Care Leavers Team brought 30 of the Borough's Care Leavers together for a special event on Christmas Day. This high profile event focussed national attention on Action Transport Theatre and Whitby Hall and included extensive national media coverage.
Action Transport Theatre, based in Whitby Hall, Ellesmere Port, has been established for over thirty years. The company is a recognised leader in the field of theatre and arts for children and young people. They are part of the Arts Council England's National Portfolio and are well regarded by the cultural sector, the Arts Council has previously had sight of the scheme and continue to be extremely supportive of the proposals.
They are regular contributors to the North West's output of theatre - their work is seen as part of the Big Imaginations programme and tours across the North West of England and beyond. They engage with children and young people in Ellesmere Port who otherwise would have little or no access to artistic and cultural activity.