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Arts Council grant to DanceEast and New Wolsey re-affirms Ipswich as a major cultural centre

PUBLISHED: 06:28 12 February 2016

Staff at Dance East celebrate being awarded £750,000.

Staff at Dance East celebrate being awarded £750,000.

Ipswich has re-asserted its place as a major cultural centre today after the Arts Council awarded the town a further three-quarters of a million pounds to bring two of its leading arts venues bang up to date.

Members of the New Wolsey Theatre who have been awarded a grant from The Arts Council to upgrade their technical equipment.. Photo Mike Kwasniak Members of the New Wolsey Theatre who have been awarded a grant from The Arts Council to upgrade their technical equipment.. Photo Mike Kwasniak

The Jerwood DanceHouse, home to DanceEast on the Ipswich Waterfront, and the New Wolsey Theatre will be sharing a combined grant of £750,000 to carry out works that will give them much more flexibility in terms of the sorts of events they can stage and will provide them with state-of-the-art lighting and sound.

Both Brendan Keaney, from DanceEast, and Sarah Holmes, from the New Wolsey, said that the grants were a massive vote of confidence in the high quality work being produced in Ipswich.

The Arts Council gives long-term support to eight National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) in Suffolk. Five of these companies are based in Ipswich. NPOs are deemed to be arts companies which produce high quality work of national importance.

DanceEast, an NPO, has been awarded £390,456 which will allow them to reconfigure their foyer and entrance. This will involve removing the foyer staircase with a view to creating a new dance space and an area for visual arts exhibitions. The money will also allow them to install new lighting which will create long-term energy savings.

Brendan Keaney, DanceEast artistic director, said: “DanceEast is cultivating a dynamic and growing audience for dance. Over the last three years we have seen attendances to performances at the DanceHouse grow by 30%. Our plan is to transform the front of house facilities to create a more welcoming, vibrant space to accommodate this growth. We want to ensure that we deliver a range of activities including post show talks and child centred activities to accompany family friendly shows that match the quality of our theatre programme.”

The New Wolsey, also an NPO, has been awarded £359,860 to upgrade it’s aging technical equipment. It will include a new high-speed computer network and the provision of state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment. It will allow them to stage ever more creatively ambitious productions as well as expanding their education work and hosting a widening ramge of touring companies.

Sarah Holmes, chief executive at the New Wolsey said: “The New Wolsey Theatre strives to achieve excellence in all aspects of its work, and we are delighted that news of our successful application to build on our current technical resources means we can fulfil this high standard. We will have a wider choice of shows to consider producing, and we will have the facility to innovate ways of providing D/deaf and disabled audiences access to our work.

“We will have a wider choice of touring shows to present, welcoming even more visiting companies to Ipswich and Suffolk. And our Production Arts Diploma students will take their first steps towards a professional career as technicians with up to date equipment. It’s an incredible investment the Arts Council has made to two world class venues in Ipswich, highlighting the potential the area has in developing new audiences and new work.”

Hedley Swain, area director for the Arts Council, said that increasing the performance space and upgrading equipment is a shining example of the ambition and innovation which is part of both organisations.

“Both projects will help both these organisations continue their excellent work in the region supporting artists, inspiring audiences and contributing to the creative economy.”

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