The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority has upped its investment into the proposed Shakespeare North in Prescot by £4m to £10m, after Knowsley Council bid for further funding due to increased project costs.
The plans for the 350-seat Jacobean court-style theatre in Prescot town centre have been mooted for a number of years, and are set to include a study centre, education and community resources, and exhibition space. Kier has been attached to the project as a contractor since 2018 and is on site with enabling works.
In May 2018, the Combined Authority approved £4m from its Strategic Investment Fund for the project, alongside a further £8m for transport improvements, including upgrades to Prescot train station.
Knowsley Council is leading on the project, and has doubled its own contribution to the scheme from £6m to £12.2m.There is also £5m backing from the Treasury which was announced in the Government’s Budget for 2016.
A report to the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority said that Knowsley had been progressing with the project since the Combined Authority funding was approved last year, however “project costs have increased and £3.5m in education-related funding is no longer available… increasing the burden on the public sector”.
While signing off the additional money, the report acknowledged Shakespeare North was “high risk” and said in its current form “it would launch with charitable funding remaining to be raised, business plan and key personnel not yet embedded, and a cost overrun risk”.
Despite this, the project remained a priority for the City Region as “a creative response to reviving Prescot, with the potential for the town to become an internationally appealing destination.”
The previous total project cost for Shakespeare North was £26m; the increased cost is yet to be confirmed.
Cllr Graham Morgan, leader of Knowsley Council, said: “This additional funding is another fantastic boost for the construction of the Shakespeare North Playhouse. Once complete, the Playhouse will become a major visitor attraction for the north of England, attracting people from across the UK and indeed the globe with its varied programme of productions and events.
“We are already witnessing the positive effect that the Playhouse is having on Prescot, as new homes are being built and a number of new bars and restaurants are opening in the town, all in preparation for when the new theatre opens. It is a really exciting time for the Prescot and for Knowsley.”
Construction work on the Shakespeare North Playhouse and the transport improvements has already started and is expected to be completed by 2021.