Latest News | 19 January 2023

Derby secures £20m to progress Assembly Rooms site plans

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Derby has secured £20 million from the Government’s Levelling Up Fund to redevelop the Assembly Rooms site.

Derby City Council, the University of Derby and Derby Theatre have successfully bid for the cash to create a new purpose-built learning theatre on the site, called ‘Assemble’.

Reacting to Derby’s award, Councillor Chris Poulter, leader of the city council, said: “This funding is an endorsement that Derby is a place to invest.

“It comes off the back of Derbion and the University of Derby both announcing transformational plans to redevelop key areas of our city.”

In a joint statement, Professor Kathryn Mitchell, vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Derby and chair of Derby Theatre board and Sarah Brigham, chief executive and artistic director at Derby Theatre, said: “We are delighted that the Government see Derby as a place to invest in and culture as the driving force for regeneration.”

Elsewhere, a team led by Derbyshire Dales District Council, has secured £13.3 million of Levelling Up cash to breathe new life into public spaces in Ashbourne.

It is estimated that the new learning theatre would increase theatre attendance by 83,000 and attract an additional 25,000 visitors to Derby each year, generating an additional £1.7 million per year for the local economy.

It would also provide opportunities for the wider Derby community to develop skills in the cultural sector.

And it would help create a vibrant cultural heart for the city with the transformed Market Hall and new performance venue at Becketwell, and the existing Déda, QUAD and Derby Museums’ Museum of Making.

The announcement of the successful bid is expected to act as a significant catalyst in regenerating the city centre and help attract further funding and investment.

Councillor Poulter said: “At Becketwell, regeneration is well underway, the new public square and apartments are nearing completion and construction work on Becketwell Performance Venue is set to start this year.

“The transformation of Derby Market Hall is moving apace and Derbion are in the process of redeveloping the Eagle Market and creating the Eastern Gateway. Derby is very much on the move.”

Derby has a strong and successful history of delivering culture in partnership, from major events such as Derby Festé to key assets like the QUAD.

In their joint statement, Professor Kathryn Mitchell and Sarah Brigham, said: “The learning theatre model, which the University of Derby and Derby Theatre have trailblazed over the last 10 years, has shown real impact for the city, not only by bringing critically acclaimed and award-winning shows to our stages, but also in the impact it has had on our communities.

“We look forward to working with Derby City Council in ensuring that the Levelling Up funding will contribute to a vibrant future for our theatre and our city.”

John Forkin, managing director of Marketing Derby, said: “This fantastic news can be seen as the beginning of a new chapter in progressing the Assembly Rooms site.

“It is also a strong signal that will encourage investment in that part of the city and we are already working with a number of businesses and investors on this.

“We must also congratulate the partners – Derby City Council, University of Derby and the Derby Theatre – in working together to win this award.”

In Ashbourne, the £13.3 million it has received from the Levelling Up Fund will be used for a project called Ashbourne Reborn.

The project, led by the district council, focuses on two distinct project areas.

The first is a series of transformed public spaces, including Market Place, Victoria Square, Millennium Square and Shrovetide Walk, while the second focuses on a new community hub, transforming the Methodist Church into a multi-purpose community building.

New traffic management plans aim to transform the pedestrian experience in Ashbourne, while the hub will provide a wide range of event and meeting spaces, a performance venue and flexible work areas with high quality digital provision.

Among those who helped with the bid was architects Lathams, who worked with the local community to propose public realm works.

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