£3m grant to refurb historic hall

Arts Council England has awarded The Met in Bury capital funding to go towards comprehensive redevelopment of the Victorian building in Market Street in the town centre.

ACE will invest £3m to pay for the bulk of a £4.5m refurbishment programme designed to transform the venue, making it more fit for purpose while not losing the historic original features. Plans include a mezzanine floor in the main theatre, modernisation of public facilities and improvements to technical and backstage areas that will improve the programme for its growing audiences. There will also be further developments in Edwin Street Recording Studios to facilitate work with theatre companies and create working spaces for cultural organisations on the unused first floor.

This outcome follows years of detailed work to gather evidence for the need for remedial works and the possible outcomes of developing The Met as an excellent venue.

David Agnew, director of The Met, said: "This is an important step for the project. While not a guarantee, it allows us to continue conversations with other stakeholders about investment in the building to better reflect the quality of work we are presenting."

Operated by Bury Metropolitan Arts Association, The Met works to inspire the people of Bury and the surrounding areas with international work and an accessible range of arts activities. BMAA welcomed more than 52,000 visitors in the year 2013-14, of which 45% came from outside the borough, 38,000 to events at The Met, 7,000 attended Ramsbottom Festival, 9,000 took part in the workshops programme and 2,000 attended for other activity such as meetings.

A campaign to match-fund the capital grant in order to carry out the works will begin this year. For more information on The Met or to find out about events and workshops visit www.themet.biz or phone ticket office on 0161 761 2216.

Constructed in the late 1840s by the 13th Earl of Derby, and designed by Sidney Smirke, best known today as the architect of the circular reading room at the British Museum, the building was originally used as a banqueting hall, meeting room, police station and magistrates' court. Used as a civic hall by Bury Council for many years, the building was taken over by BMAA in 1980 and has been operated as an arts centre since. Although there have been piecemeal developments over the years no wholescale revision has taken place and the historic building has begun deteriorating. Proposed designs for the building have been developed by JM Architects with Gardiner & Theobold.

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