FUNDING for a new flagship theatre for children in the North-East has been hailed as a “dream come true” by the creative director behind the project.
The announcement of £1.5m of Arts Council funding to allow children’s theatre company Theatre Hullabaloo to build a specialist facility in Darlington aimed at youth audiences was hailed as a major boost for the town’s ambitions to revitalise its arts offering.
The award to Theatre Hullabaloo was one of several worth millions of pounds made to North-East arts organisations by Arts Council England today (Tuesday, July 1) as it announced its national funding for the next three years.
The news of the funding for The Hullaballoon, a child-centred theatre run by Theatre Hullabaloo in conjunction with Darlington Borough Council and Darlington Civic Theatre, will see the creation of only the fourth specialist children’s theatre in the UK, and the first north of London.
The theatre will be built in a former fire station to the rear of the Civic Theatre and will produce and commission professional theatre productions aimed at children of all ages.
The 150-seat theatre will be designed around the needs of youth audiences and will also include a family-friendly cafe and play space, interactive exhibitions and rehearsal space.
The £2.35m project will also receive £650,000 from Darlington Borough Council, which pledged to put the proceeds of the sale of the town’s former Arts Centre into the theatre.
Miranda Thain, creative producer of Theatre Hullabaloo, said: “It’s been my dream for the last decade to create a facility like this but it has really been the last two years of working with the council to secure the legacy of the Arts Centre.
“It will make Darlington the specialist centre for children’s theatre productions in the north of the country. This is a theatre designed especially for youth audiences, with different for productions for children from tiny babies and toddlers up to 16-year-olds.
“The theatre will be designed around its primary audience, children, but we want people from one to 80 to come here and enjoy the space.”
Building work is expected to begin early next year ahead of an autumn 2016 opening date.
The theatre will be independently run by Theatre Hullabaloo, but managed by Darlington Borough Council as part of the wider Civic Theatre site.
Councillor Nick Wallis, from Darlington Borough Council, said the children’s theatre would boost performing arts in Darlington following the loss of the former arts centre in 2012.
He said: “The relationship between the established civic theatre and the new children’s theatre means we will be fostering the next generation of people passionate about the performing arts in Darlington and beyond.
“The council committed to putting £650,000 from the sale of the arts centre building, making this project very much the legacy of the arts centre.”
Cllr Wallis said the arts centre building, on Vane Terrace, was out to tender and discussion with developers were ongoing over its potential sale.
Groups that have received Arts Council funding
ARTS organisations and events across the North East and North Yorkshire have secured Arts Council funding for the next three years, including:
• Tin Arts Ltd, a not for profit contemporary dance company based in Durham City: £244,000
• ARC, the Stockton arts centre: £918,000
• Stockton International Riverside Festival, run by Stockton Borough Council: £604,000
• mima, Middlesbrough’s modern art gallery: £1.5m
• The National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, based in Aykley Heads, Durham: £321,000
• The National Glass Centre, in Sunderland: £1m
• The Forge, participatory arts projects for young people, based in Stanley: £172,000
• Beamish, The Living Museum of the North, County Durham: £2m
• Rural Arts North Yorkshire, based in Thirsk: £226,000
• York Museums Trust: £3,690,000