LEADERS behind one of Barnsley’s most iconic venues have been awarded a six-figure sum to develop more opportunities for artists and performers hit hard by the pandemic, the Chronicle can reveal.

Barnsley Civic Enterprise - the group behind the Civic - received £422,999 from Arts Council England’s capital investment programme.

The Hanson Street venue’s allocation is one of the largest to be handed out in Yorkshire.

Sarah Maxfield, from Arts Council England, said: “Barnsley Civic Enterprise has been awarded this to develop opportunities at the Civic for both artists and the community.

“Cultural organisations enhance our lives and the places where we live.

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“It is fantastic that we have been able to support so many organisations to ensure their buildings are fit for the future which will enable artists and communities to create and enjoy some wonderful work and cultural activity for years to come.”

It’s been a difficult two years for the Civic which, like other events spaces, faced prolonged spells of closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic, leading to losses costing upwards of £300,000.

The gallery and events space - reopened in 2009 but with a third of the building unfinished - was able to secure £57,362 from the government’s culture recovery fund in order to keep running.

Major partners, including Barnsley Music Service and Cross the Sky theatre group for adults with disabilities, are being reintroduced to in-person format after moving online during lockdown, as are a variety of shows.

And the creep back to normality has meant the vast building’s wider refurbishment - which also includes a £1.6m facelift as part of Historic England’s ‘Heritage Action Zone’ work on Eldon Street - can resume.

Three unused lower floors - totalling 22,000sq ft of space - will be developed, with private apartments, a new 150-seat theatre and the removal of the balcony facing onto Mandela Gardens.

Arts Minister Lord Parkinson, Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, added: “Cultural organisations play a vital role in communities up and down the country - bringing people together, helping them tell and share their stories, and boosting both wellbeing and the economy.

“I want to make sure that everyone has access to the arts, no matter where they live.

“This funding will make sure that cherished institutions have the infrastructure they need to succeed for years to come.”

Anthony Baker, chief executive at the Civic, told the Chronicle he was delighted with the investment.

“It was a very competitive funding round - it will enable us to make a number of improvements which include knocking together three offices to create a space for artists and the community to use to develop activities such as new performances, visual arts and musical theatre, and transform the look and feel of the spaces in the building so we’ve got more of a big welcome.

“This includes the creation of murals and art works on all the walls, kitting out the Panorama bar space with sofas, chairs and desks for anyone to use all day, creating a new office space for creatives to use and transforming another space for communities to have their meetings and workshops in.

“In helping improve our environmental impact we will be transforming our entire building, including the theatre into industry-standard low-energy lighting, putting the Civic ahead of many other venues in the country, and we’ll have charging points for electric vehicles so that touring companies can use less impactful vehicles when they transport their sets and people to us.

“It will help the Civic make another step on its journey to becoming an essential part of people’s lives in Barnsley.”