Previously a series of tired old buildings, the Southport Arts Centre (Cambridge Theatre and The Studio), The Atkinson Art Gallery and Southport Library on Lord Street have been unified and refurbished to create a vibrant new cultural hub for the town.
Work began in May 2010 as contractors stripped out the existing fixtures and fittings, demolished walls and carried out vital repair works on the roof.
The art gallery and museum have since been closed and library relocated to a temporary home in Tulketh Street.
When complete later this year the centre will, in addition to the previous facilities, also offer three new museum galleries, a craft gallery for high quality work produced locally, a local history centre, an extended café and bar and space for community groups to use for their own activities.
Furthermore, the Atkinson Centre will hold a theatre for 400 people and a 300-capacity studio. Both will hold state-of-the-art digital equipment aimed at engaging younger audiences.
Natural light will be key to the transformation, with the main staircase to be fed by daylight with LED lights also illuminating stained glass windows set up there in an area named the Clerestory Lantern
Speaking about the project, Andrew Dunsmore, Project Manager, said:
”The idea behind the project was to create improved interconnectivity between Southport’s cultural centres. So we have refurbished and repaired the existing facilities and merge them into one centre, with a shared entrance.”
Councillor Mike Booth, Cabinet Member for Leisure and Tourism, added:
“The transformation has been amazing. The Cultural Centre is going to be a fantastic facility which will bring people from all over the North West to Southport.”
When carrying out the refurbishment on the theatre, the contractors got a pleasant surprise. John Taylor, Head of Arts and Cultural Services at Sefton Council, said:
“When the theatre was removed we discovered the original floor from 1874. We have also uncovered some amazing mouldings and mosaic floors which we will be preserving.”