The trustees of the Royal Court theatre in Liverpool launched its capital campaign to renovate and refurbish the Grade II-listed art deco building on Thursday night.
The trust was given the green light from the Heritage Lottery Fund in September to enable them to develop the plans for the building, as well as further and to continue fundraising to raise the £10.6m needed for the whole scheme.
A development grant of £116,200 was awarded from HLF which will cover the development costs of working the scheme up to RIBA stage D and gaining planning approval.
Guest of honour at the evening held in the Panoramic restaurant in Beetham's West Tower in the city centre was Cherie Booth, wife of former Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Booth said: "Liverpool has a wealth of fantastic buildings and a rich cultural heritage of which we can be proud. The Royal Court is one of my favourite buildings and a great example of our art deco architecture. I am delighted that the Royal Court Trust is working with Liverpool City Council to restore the theatre for future generations. I know that the people of Liverpool are playing an important role in this project by supporting the fantastic shows produced by the theatre and I know that the Trust will do everything it can to improve the theatre for their benefit."
Other guests included the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Cllr Hazel Williams, Cllr Wendy Simon, culture cabinet member and representatives from key stakeholders in the project, Heritage Lottery Fund, Liverpool Vision, The Mersey Partnership, English Heritage, Brabners Chaffe Street, Duncan Sheard Glass and Paver Smith.
Sara Hilton, head of the Heritage Lottery Fund North West, added: "There is still development work that needs to take place before the project can progress to the second-round, but HLF will be offering the Trust full support in taking their application further."
Elizabeth Steel, chairman of the Royal Court Liverpool Trust, said: "The key message today is to let the public know that their support for the theatre really does count. Since the £1 levy on all tickets began in March of this year, the public has raised over £60,000. This money has been used to enable the trust to access Heritage Lottery Funds and other public funds to move the project forward. The first area that will be addressed is the public's comfort inside the theatre. Toilets, seats, heating, lighting and a lift for disabled people are our priority. Hopefully we can start on site with these significant improvements in early 2012. In the meantime, a huge thank you to the public and please keep supporting the theatre and the capital campaign by buying tickets to shows."
London-based Allford Hall Monaghan Morris was chosen as the architect to restore the Royal Court theatre in Roe Street, Liverpool city centre, in March last year.
AHMM's design was praised for addressing key challenges, such as disabled access and for improving public access and circulation within the building to create a clear and exciting concept for the upgrading of the 1938 building.
Allford Hall Monaghan Morris said it will be submitting its plans for the building early next year.
- Photograph of Cherie Booth and Kevin Fearon, chief executive of Royal Court Liverpool, taken by Dave Evans