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Boost for town as New Wolsey starts work on arts gateway

PUBLISHED: 17:14 13 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:11 14 August 2019

An artist's impression of the new community arts pavilion outside the New Wolsey Theatre on Civic Drive Picture: WG+P ARCHITECTS

An artist's impression of the new community arts pavilion outside the New Wolsey Theatre on Civic Drive Picture: WG+P ARCHITECTS

Archant

Ipswich is set to enjoy a major boost to its new arts and leisure economy thanks to an extensive re-development of the New Wolsey Theatre site on Civic Drive.

Audiences enjoying a drink and a bite to eat outside the New Wolsey Theatre before the start of a performance. The new arts pavilion which will open in September 2020 will add the the theatre activities on site. 
Picture by Lucy Taylor Photography.Audiences enjoying a drink and a bite to eat outside the New Wolsey Theatre before the start of a performance. The new arts pavilion which will open in September 2020 will add the the theatre activities on site. Picture by Lucy Taylor Photography.

A new theatre performance and rehearsal space and pavilion is due to be constructed as part of a wider mixed-use development to revive the Westgate area of Ipswich. The 35,000 sqm site has been incorporated as part of Ipswich Borough Council's development plan.

The new pavilion will be situated on the area adjacent to the spiral car park which sits in front of the theatre and will become home to the theatre's growing community engagement and creative learning programme.

The New Wolsey Theatre itself will remain unchanged but a separate programme of works is being investigated with the aim of reconfiguring the foyer and expanding catering facilties.

It will also serve as a rehearsal space for the theatre and offer a home to the growing number of youth companies. The space has been ergonomically designed to encourage collaborative working and provide a Tech Hub for developing digital skills in arts practise for people in Ipswich and Suffolk. The team also worked alongside the theatre in order to ensure that the building design incorporates a Changing Places facility, in addition to accessible toilets, to provide facilities for those visiting the town with complex needs.

Philip Tomlin as Francis Henshall, with the cast of the fast-paced comedy One Man, Two Guvnors which went into rehearsal as the New Wolsey announced the development of its new community arts pavilion. Photo: Mike KwasniakPhilip Tomlin as Francis Henshall, with the cast of the fast-paced comedy One Man, Two Guvnors which went into rehearsal as the New Wolsey announced the development of its new community arts pavilion. Photo: Mike Kwasniak

This development has been designed by WG+P Architects (Waind Gohil + Potter) and it will become the North West gateway to Ipswich town centre.

WG+P's design for the new pavilion utilises a pre-fabricated timber structure developed with structural engineers Price & Myers and incorporates a striking concertinaed gold coloured metal roof. The landscape design includes new planting, lighting, projections and street furniture.

Phil Waind, director with WG+P said: "This is a wonderful opportunity for us to create something delightful within the space and for all who visit Ipswich. The Willis Building, being one of our favourites, is a short distance away and we wanted a design that aspires and uses construction methods relevant to today. The new public space and building will fundamentally support The New Wolsey Theatre and allow them to maintain and enhance their status as a cultural landmark in the heart of Ipswich."

Sarah Holmes, chief executive at the New Wolsey Theatre, is delighted that the development has been given the go-ahead and said that the pavilion will provide a valuable focus to the expanding range of work carried out by the theatre.

The New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, basking in the summer sunshine Photo: Lucy TaylorThe New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, basking in the summer sunshine Photo: Lucy Taylor

"It's been an absolute delight to work in partnership with WG+P on this vital project. The marvellous golden-roofed pavilion they have designed for us will enable our community programme to flourish and for the first time brings our performance and participation work together on one site. It will absolutely bring new life to the area round the theatre as well as transforming our audiences approach to the New Wolsey Theatre."

Phase 1 has received planning consent from Ipswich Borough Council who commented: "A key objective of the proposal is to provide both an innovative and high-quality design in ensuring its ambition is to raise the local standard of design whilst respectfully acknowledging the existing vernacular of the surrounding area, including referencing the form of its immediate context."

The upgrade to the area around the New Wolsey Theatre is being undertaken by the land owners, Charterhouse Investments. The excellent ongoing relationship nurtured between the land owners and theatre's management team, has ensured that this addition to the redeveloped area will be made available to the theatre for its sole use.

The site owner Peter de Savary, of Charterhouse Investments, commented: "We hope this project can set an example to others of where public / private partnerships can deliver regeneration and community benefit in this otherwise distressed market."

Work on Phase 1 is to commence immediately with local main contactor Gipping and quantity surveyor Daniel Connal Partnership, and it is expected that the new building will open for the New Wolsey's autumn season in September 2020.

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