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Tuesday 7th June 2005 at 12pm 0 Comments

Belfast is to get a new £12 million theatre on the site of the existing Lyric Theatre.

Arts Minister, David Hanson MP, made the announcement today on a visit to the Lyric Theatre in Ridgeway Street, during which he was briefed on plans for the development of the riverside site.

Commenting during the visit, the Minister said that this multi-million pound investment would secure the future of the Lyric Theatre as a modern cultural and entertainment venue. He said: “This investment is great news for the arts in Belfast and I am very pleased to be able to give the go-ahead for the new larger two-storey theatre, which has been designed to seat around 400 people and also house a 150-seater studio facility.

“Since the existing building opened in 1968, the Lyric has been Northern Ireland’s only full-time producing theatre. It has provided opportunities for many wishing to pursue a career in the theatre and I am confident that it will continue to do so for many more years to come.”

Mr Hanson pointed out that the investment in larger and better facilities would also allow the theatre to expand its educational programmes through its outreach projects. He said that these would encourage wider community involvement and participation and provide valuable opportunities for young people.

The Minister emphasised that it was not just about supporting the arts in Belfast, it was also about contributing to the economic and social regeneration of the city. He stressed: “The arts have a vital role to play in the cultural, social and economic life of the city. I am certain that a brand new Lyric Theatre will encourage more people to visit Belfast and this will mean extra business for the local hospitality industry.

“Over the years, the Lyric Theatre has made a significant contribution to the quality of life in the city and this investment will help it to continue that proud record for many more years to come.”

He added: “Over the next three years, the Government has earmarked £18 million for the development and refurbishment of arts facilities in Belfast, supported by £9.2 million Arts Council from Lottery funding. My Department is currently working on other projects in Belfast about which I will make further announcements in the coming months.”

The £12 million is made up as follows:

  • Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) – up to £6 million
  • The Arts Council for Northern Ireland (ACNI) - £2 million
  • Trusts and Foundation - £0.75 million
  • Fund raising by the Lyric - remainder

An economic appraisal and business plan has been approved on condition that DCAL is satisfied with the Lyric’s fundraising strategy and that the Lyric has appropriate contingency arrangements in place to cover any delays or shortfall of their planned contribution.

Work is expected to commence on the project during 2007 and to open in 2009.

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