MULTI-MILLION pound plans to bring Barnsley Civic back to its former glory - which include the reopening of its front doors to the public - will begin next year.
The sizeable funding - worth £3.2m - by Barnsley Council, Historic England other funders - which includes a £1.2m grant from the Eldon Street Heritage Action Zone for repairs to the site’s frontage - is hoped to bring a ‘bright new future’ to the town.
The Victorian building originally opened in 1877 as the Barnsley Mechanic and Institute Public Hall and became a theatre in the 1960s before closing its doors to residents in 1998 following a period of decline.
The building reopened to the public back in 2009 but its front doors on Eldon Street remained closed - with the entranceway, mosaics and original ceiling hidden away from view.
At that time, the gallery and events space was able to secure £57,362 from the government’s culture recovery fund in order to keep running.
Huge plans now include bringing the site back to its full working use and introducing a new programme of comedy, music, theatre and dance back to the town.
The stunning front entrance is also set to be reopened, with a new cafe, bar and restaurant to open on the ground and first floor.
Barnsley Civic bosses have also started their own fundraising mission to raise £150,000 which will go towards the redevelopment.
Barnsley Civic chief executive, Anthony Baker, said: “September 2023 is going to be the beginning of a new era for Barnsley Civic, with work starting on the transformation in January 2023.
“We’ve waited 25 years to open our front doors onto Barnsley’s busiest street, Eldon Street. Barnsley Civic will be the jewel in the crown of the town centre transformation.
“Barnsley Civic is the only large contemporary arts centre in the borough and it is our mission to give the people of Barnsley high-quality inspirational cultural and creative experiences that will appeal to them, which is why we are changing our programme from September.
“We are incredibly excited about 2023 and can’t wait to share our new programme for with you later this year.”
Plans were put forward to Barnsley Council in May before they were given the green light by its planning board in August.
Council leader sir Steve Houghton says the the project is ‘integral’ to its wider redevelopment of the town centre’ which has already seen a multi-million pound Glass Works venture impress locals.
He added: “This is an important scheme that will hugely complement the major improvements we have made to the town centre over the last five years.
“Barnsley Civic has lacked an active frontage onto Eldon Street for many years but this work will not only provide a fabulous cultural resource for the people of Barnsley, it will also conserve and celebrate the unique heritage of the building.
“We are thrilled to be able to fund this work along with Historic England as part of our four-year partnership project, which will greatly improve the physical condition of Eldon Street one of Barnsley’s most historic streets.”
The entire project is expected to last nine months and work will begin in January to remove the replica canopy on Eldon Street.
The canopy was not an original feature of the building and will be removed from the new-look frontage so it can remain in its original form.
The front doors of the site are set to be open in September 2023 with a new autumn theatre and gallery programme launching in the spring, detailing performances from September to December.
Bryan Davies from Historic England said: “The redevelopment of Barnsley Civic is one of the most important schemes in the Eldon Street High Street Heritage Action Zone as it will improve the appearance of the street, reopen up the historic entrance, as well as create a thriving new business and community hub.