STRATFORD Artshouse will be the beating heart of the town.
So says general manager Martyn Balson, who believes the Rother Street venue will go from strength to strength following its £1.8 million overhaul.
Stratford Civic Hall was run by Stratford Town Trust, but as of Tuesday (April 1), new arts-focused charity The Stratford-upon-Avon Artshouse Trust, took over its operation and the venue is now known as Stratford Artshouse.
The new name – a more contemporary version of Stratford Arts Centre – is based on feedback from focus groups and online surveys, which suggested there was a desire to keep it simple.
It is also designed to reflect the investment made by Stratford Town Trust while signalling a change in focus for the new building.
Among the key structural changes are the inclusion of a new theatre with improved stage, lighting, seating and air conditioning.
A refurbished bar and foyer, landscaped gardens, art display spaces, meeting rooms and a rear entrance from Rother Street car park also make up part of the works, which are expected to be completed by the end of next month.
And although it is the end of an era for the civic hall, Martin – who himself has ten years’ venue and event management experience – is hoping the new venture can push on towards a bigger and brighter future.
He told The Observer: “Stratford Artshouse has been designed as an open, flexible, multi-purpose venue, which will support and serve our community through a range of cultural and educational activities.
“It is a fantastic new asset at the heart of the town centre that will offer theatre, music, art, drama and comedy all from one central venue.
“Both myself and the new charity want to drive forward and advance appreciation of the arts among those living, working and studying in Stratford and the surrounding district.
“Through the regeneration we believe we can do that but ultimately, we want to ensure Stratford Artshouse is a friendly, lively place for people in the district to visit and enjoy.”
* Stratford Artshouse will be officially opened on Friday April 11 and people are invited to come along.
It will begin with Touch FM broadcasting its Breakfast Show live from the venue between 7am and 9am – plus
a live performance of charity single Solider On by Andrew James, accompanied by Mezzo Dance.
Well-known Midlands Today presenter Nick Owen will be on hand to officially open the complex later in the morning – cutting the ribbon alongside Stratford schoolchildren.
Free tickets are available to attend the launch via Facebook – www.facebook.com/102touchfm