A £3.4m vision to revamp and expand an Ipswich theatre has been welcomed by art campaigners.

Ipswich Borough Council has announced plans for The Regent Theatre on St Helen's Street to receive a £3.45m makeover, with aims to complete the transformation by December 2025.

To make this project possible the council are planning for a 20p increase in ticket prices, as a restoration levy. 

The council will meet next week to discuss the plans, and if approved the increased prices will be put in place from August 5.

It is so none of the council's budget is used in the project but is instead funded entirely by the theatre's audience. 

Come From Away recently visited the Regent.Come From Away recently visited the Regent. (Image: Come From Away)

In surveys conducted by the borough council, it was seen that many visitors wanted additional toilets, fewer queues at the bar and easier access to the venue. 

The £3.45m will be used to create larger bars and open up the foyer area, Circle Lounge and Crush Hall. 

Additionally, they will also update the canopy over the front doors, modify the accessible entrance and install a lift.

The first phase was completed last year.The first phase was completed last year. (Image: Newsquest)

In a report to the council's executive next Tuesday, the report said the project "will ensure that the Regent Theatre remains at the forefront of Ipswich’s visitor economy for many years to come."

This is the second phase of the project, the first came to completion last year, with improved car parks, dressing rooms, backstage areas and catering facilities.

The first phase of the theatre's redevelopment was completed in 2023.The first phase of the theatre's redevelopment was completed in 2023. (Image: Ipswich Borough Council)

Those improvements helped bring five West End shows to the town theatre. 

Cllr Jane Riley will be presenting the plans.Cllr Jane Riley will be presenting the plans. (Image: Nicole Drury/IBC)

The portfolio holder for culture and customers, Cllr Jane Riley, will be presenting these plans in full to the council's executive committee on Tuesday, July 16.

Within the meeting, they wish to authorise the Head of Major Capital Schemes and the Head of Vibrant Town Services to submit a planning application to the council. 

Council leader Neil McDonald had put forth these plans last year.Council leader Neil McDonald had put forth these plans last year. (Image: Neil MacDonald)

Council leader Neil McDonald discussed the borough's hopes to restore the theatre in June last year.

The opening of the new backstage facilities.The opening of the new backstage facilities. (Image: Ipswich Borough Council)

He wrote in The Star: "These improvements will help make our theatre even more attractive to show producers looking for venues of a high standard, both on and off-stage.

"The improvements will be widely welcomed by audiences and help cement the Regent’s position as a premier entertainment venue in the east of England."

This comes after protests in front of the county council regarding arts funding cuts.This comes after protests in front of the county council regarding arts funding cuts. (Image: Charlotte Bond)

At the start of the year, campaigners including high profile stars Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber and Dame Judi Dench rallied to call on Suffolk County Council to not cut art services. 

As part of its 2024/25 budget, Suffolk County Council proposed to scrap its £500,000 'core funding' but was able to reconsider after the Conservative government announced in January £600million of funding for local councils.

It means as of April 2025 it will offer a £500,000 project fund which all Suffolk arts and heritage organisations can apply for. 

The Regent, which is run by the borough council, would not have been subjected to these cuts, but the borough's move has been praised by campaigners including art union Equity.

The group's regional head said that they had visited the backstage restoration workers earlier and were delighted with the new works at the front of it. 

The demo was also attended by Unite the Union, whose regional officer Neal Evans said: "This is an extremely positive development.

"This is a council-owned property and not only does it provide important entertainment and cultural opportunities it also delivers well-paid employment to the local population."