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Which Ipswich theatre companies have bagged close to £1 million to boost facilties?

PUBLISHED: 12:21 04 November 2019 | UPDATED: 10:29 05 November 2019

A CGI image of what the Gecko Creation Space could look like. Picture: DAN FISHER

A CGI image of what the Gecko Creation Space could look like. Picture: DAN FISHER

Dan Fisher

Two top Ipswich theatre companies have earned close to £1 million, in the form of two large grants from the Arts Council, to fund ambitious development plans which will not only boost the redevelopment of Ipswich Waterfront, but will also continue to improve the arts provision for Suffolk audiences.

The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich which has won a Capital grant to upgrade its front-of-house and auditorium as part of redevelopment works. Photo: Carl LambThe New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich which has won a Capital grant to upgrade its front-of-house and auditorium as part of redevelopment works. Photo: Carl Lamb

Gecko physical theatre company, which frequently rehearses at DanceEast and has offices in Henley Road, has been awarded nearly half-a-million pounds by the Arts Council to create a new world-class theatre making space and a new home. They will be creating a new, state-of-the-art media hub out of the old Burton's building on the Ipswich Waterfront which currently stands derelict next to the Jerwood DanceHouse.

Across town, the New Wolsey Theatre has been awarded nearly £400,000 to rennovate its front-of-house areas and auditorium. The grants awarded both companies come from the Arts Council's Capital Small Grants fund.

Working in partnership with Ipswich Borough Council, Gecko will use the Arts Council's grant of £499,999, to help transform a disused industrial Waterfront building into the Gecko Creation Space. The new venue will provide a nationally significant resource for the creation of world-class performance work, as well as delivering essential training and support for the mid-scale sector. The venue will be designed to be fully accessible and environmentally sustainable.

Artistic director Amit Lahav, said: "This marks an extraordinary moment in Gecko's story - we are immensely grateful to Arts Council England for supporting our journey and our future; enabling us to continue to create world class physical theatre. The Gecko Creation Space is a game changer for us in terms of how we can engage with our local community, nationwide makers and international collaborators.

"This unique theatre making facility will provide Gecko with a beautiful home on Ipswich's thriving waterfront enabling the full technical development of Gecko's productions; lighting & sound, set, props and audio recording. It will support the growth of our world class ensemble of international artists and allow us to share our ground-breaking creative process with teachers, theatre and dance makers, and young people."

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Gecko are based in Ipswich but have an international profile. In recent years they have provided the opening for the BBC's night of live performances from BBC TV Centre and worked with The Chemical Brothers, The Barbican, Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre and Mind The Gap.

Amit added: "The Creation Space will strengthen our ambition to continue to grow our creative collaborations, developing more artists for the future, engaging a diverse and energised young audience and continuing this country's rich vein of artistic excellence."

For the New Wolsey, the grant of £395,000 will help the theatre re-shape and significantly improve the audience experience by re-modelling the theatre's front of house and auditorium spaces. The investment will also enable New Wolsey to fully fit out its new purpose-built space dedicated to the theatre's participation work which is currently being constructed in front of the theatre by the spiral car park.

Together these two strands form the second and third part of a wider three-phrase multifaceted programme of infrastructure and development that will transform the scale and scope of New Wolsey Theatre's community engagement, digital and young people's work.

Sarah Holmes, New Wolsey chief executive, said: "As building work on our new purpose-built space for participation work is well underway, we are thrilled that we can now progress plans for the next two phrases of this ambitious project, which will see our front of house and auditorium spaces transformed.

"This is so much more than just bringing aging facilities up to standard but about significantly contributing to Ipswich's place making agendas: celebrating our communities, and creating first class, fully accessible and welcoming facilities."

Hedley Swain, Area Director, South East, Arts Council England, said: "It's really important that arts and cultural organisations have the right buildings and equipment in place to create and present great work for audiences across the country. We're really excited to support the ambition of both Gecko and New Wolsey Theatre, which will not only further establish Ipswich as a centre for the creation of high-quality new work, but also ensure that the local community and young people have an outstanding opportunity to engage with arts and culture."

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