AMBITIOUS plans to create a permanent home for a world-renowned choir - which will pave the way for the formation of a centre of excellence - took a step closer this week after the project was included in a multi-million pound bid for government cash.
Council bosses submitted two bids for so-called ‘levelling up’ funding - including the ‘Future Town’ scheme, specific to the Barnsley Central constituency - which is headlined by a £4m package for Barnsley Youth Choir (BYC).
The NAVE - Northern Academy for Vocal Excellence - would be a permanent home for the choir and be situated on the corner of St Mary’s Place and Westgate.
It will also engage with other organisations to provide a hub for singing regionally and nationally, hopefully building an international reputation from the town centre base.
Artistic director Mat Wright said: “The NAVE will be a regional and national centre to support the very highest levels of singing - it’s going to be a space for people of all ages to learn and train from the very best in the world.
“The plans are really ambitious and while it’s primarily about young people, we want the whole community to benefit from this.
“We’ve got plans for it to be a place that really does serve the community and really does make a difference.
“Whilst we have made a lot of progress, and we are incredibly grateful for the excellent support that the council has provided, there is still a great deal to do, and we are working hard to raise the finances to realise this vision for the town.”
The council previously agreed to lease its former ‘Computer Centre’ building, behind the town hall, for 50 years to aid with the development of the NAVE.
Previously, Barnsley has lost out on over £100m in levelling up funding but Barnsley Central MP, Dan Jarvis, wrote to the Secretary of State, Michael Gove, urging him to back the bid and deliver for the town.
“Barnsley Council put forward a compelling and bold vision for our town, if delivered in full the proposal will be transformative for our borough,” he told the Chronicle.
“The funding will provide a bespoke home for our world-acclaimed Barnsley Youth Choir.
“The Conservative government were elected on a promise to level up communities in the north, like Barnsley, but so far that promise has rung hollow.
“We need the government to put its money where its mouth is and back our ambition and deliver for Barnsley.”
Also included in the town centre bid is the Civic, which could receive £900,000, a £2.5m activity park and £2.8m on a youth hub which is set to be overseen by charities Chilypep and YMCA.
Further afield, Elsecar’s £16m ‘Forging Ahead’ scheme - which includes new attractions for its heritage railway - makes up the second aspect of the council’s bid.
Sir Steve Houghton, leader of Barnsley Council, said: “The town has submitted two strong and ambitious levelling up investment plans for government investment to boost our young people’s prospects and grow our culture and visitor economy.
“These are long-term plans to match the long-term nature of what levelling up needs to be if we’re really to address inequalities.
“The government needs to match its policies with real tangible action and investment in the long-term future of places like Barnsley.
“To date, no levelling up resources have been approved for the council or our residents and these figures show how unequal the playing field is.
“We need to see real change and real investment now.”