Green light given to extension project for Colchester’s Mercury Theatre

Artist's impression of how the new-look Mercury Theatre may appear. Picture: MERCURY THEATRE

Artist's impression of how the new-look Mercury Theatre may appear. Picture: MERCURY THEATRE - Credit: Archant

Arts Council England has given the go-ahead for a multi-million pound extension project for the Mercury Theatre in Colchester.

More funding secured for the Mercury Theatre's Mercury Rising project. From left: Steve Mannix, exec

More funding secured for the Mercury Theatre's Mercury Rising project. From left: Steve Mannix, executive director, Mercury Theatre; Cllr Tim Young, Colchester borough councillor for culture; and Daniel Buckroyd Mercury Theatre artistic director, celebrate the news with theatre staff, in the costume making department which will be replaced with a state-of-the-art purpose-built facility in the new extension. Picture: MERCURY THEATRE - Credit: Archant

The arts body’s National Council has agreed that the Mercury Rising project can progress to stage two of its large capital programme, a move which confirms £4million funding from the Arts Council, and unlocks £1m additional funding from the South East England Local Enterprise Partnership (SELEP) and £200,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation.

Hedley Swain, South East area director for Arts Council England, said: “We’re delighted to award Mercury Theatre Stage Two funding for its exciting capital development.

“The project has galvanised support from a wide range of local stakeholders and we are particularly pleased to see support from SELEP, which is testament to the important role that arts and cultural organisations have in local economic growth.”

Will Quince, Colchester MP, said: “I’m massively behind the redevelopment of the Mercury.

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“This represents a huge investment in the arts in Colchester which we know is a huge driver for future investment in the local economy – for every pound we invest in the arts we create £4 returned in our town centre.

“Colchester is the cultural capital of Essex and it’s absolutely right we look to improve the already great theatre we have.”

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The Mercury is also in talks to move from February 2019 to a temporary home at Berryfield Lawn – between firstsite, St Thomas More School and the Culture Quarter development on Queen Street – while building work takes place.

Planning permission has already been granted by Colchester Borough Council, which has also backed the project with £1m along with another £1m from Essex County Council.

Tim Young, borough councillor for culture, said: “This is fantastic news not just for the Mercury Theatre but for Colchester as a whole. The ambitious Mercury Rising project is not just bucking the national trend for supporting these kind of venues but will help cement this borough’s reputation as being a vibrant centre for the arts.

“This decision by Arts Council England will really help push this scheme forward.”

Demolition and construction work could start at the Mercury in Spring 2018

When completed, the Mercury will be extended to include a community participation space, transformed front of house facilities, and a new production block for the benefit of up-and-coming theatre makers.

There will also be 40 additional seats in the main auditorium, and an all-day cafe/bar.

The theatre’s own board will now have to give final approval when it meets in mid-January.

Although £7.45m of funding has been secured, the theatre is looking for £1.5m to hit its target.

Daniel Buckroyd, artistic director at the Mercury, said: “This project is about securing a theatre, accessible to all, for this and future generations. We’ll be able to throw open our doors like never before.

“I’m particularly excited about the opportunities for future theatre makers – we have been investing heavily in this area as we know theatre helps to bring communities together, and can have an extremely positive economic impact too.”

For more information on Mercury Rising and how you can get involved, visit

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