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Youth theatre project to benefit from arts centre sale cash
PROFITS from the proposed sale of a former arts centre will be put towards the creation of a £1.5m ‘national flagship’ theatre for children.
Darlington Arts Centre closed last year, having fallen victim to local authority spending cuts.
At a meeting of Darlington Borough Council’s cabinet on Tuesday (December 3), members agreed to ring-fence £600,000 from the eventual sale of the 19th Century former arts centre for the ambitious youth theatre project.
The project is conditional on a successful bid for Arts Council cash, with the cash-strapped council unable to offer funding beyond the agreed six-figure contribution.
Darlington-based children’s theatre company Theatre Hullaballo will bid for Arts Council support for the youth theatre, which would be built on a site adjacent to the existing Darlington Civic Theatre.
Councillor Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure, is excited about the proposals, which he said could help create a ‘cultural quarter’ for Darlington.
He said: “The Theatre Hullaballoo proposals could potentially attract significant capital into Darlington, with what would be a national flagship theatre for children.
“What we are beginning to see, from the very regrettable closure of the Arts Centre, are some very encouraging developments in the arts in Darlington."
Coun Wallis said there was a 'copper-bottomed, gold-plated guarantee' from the council, regarding profits from the sale of the arts centre.
Theatre Hullaballoo, the only Darlington-based organisation within the Arts Council’s national portfolio, currently has office space within the town, but no dedicated area for rehearsals and performance.
A decision on whether the Arts Council will support the project is not expected to be made until July next year.
Coun Wallis added: “Officers are working hard, with Theatre Hullaballoo, to get the best possible facility in place.
“There will be no further call on the council’s budget if the project goes ahead.
“The pieces are in place, but there’s still a lot of work to be done.
“A lot of the decisions are out of our control, but I believe this is a very exciting prospect for Darlington and we will continue to work hard to ensure that it is realised.”
The council decided to put the former Arts Centre building up for sale, after plans the failure of plans to turn it into a boutique hotel, with business units and a restaurant.
Council leader Bill Dixon said he expects the sale of the building to be completed next year, with formal tenders having been invited from interested parties.
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