Curtain call for Citizens Theatre thanks to lottery

An artist's impression shows how the new Citizens Theatre will look
An artist's impression shows how the new Citizens Theatre will look
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A MULTI-MILLION pound bid to secure the future of one of Scotland’s best-known theatres has won the backing of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Almost £5 million has been pledged for the long-awaited overhaul of the Citizens Theatre, in Glasgow, to allow plans for the biggest overhaul in its 135-year history to proceed.

The £16m revamp is expected to get under way in 2016 following the HLF announcement, which will allow detailed design work to be drawn up.

The work will give the B-listed building, which dates back to 1878 and is said to be in “urgent” need of repair, a modern makeover while retaining its much-loved 500-seater auditorium and its Victorian theatre machinery, which is thought to be the best-preserved in Britain.

Other key elements of the project, which Glasgow City Council has pledged £4m towards, will see new facilities added. A series of statues, including those of William Shakespeare and Robert Burns, which were on the roof of the original theatre building, will adorn the new facade.

Work on the revamp is expected to last two years but the theatre says every effort is being made to minimise the length of time the Citizens will be closed to the public.

Among the stars to tread the boards at the Citizens early in their careers were Gary Oldman, Stanley Baxter, Rupert Everett, Tim Roth, Robbie Coltrane, Alan Cumming and Alan Rickman.

The city council, which owns the building, agreed its funding last summer and has also approved a 99-year lease with the theatre to help secure its future. Arts agency Creative Scotland confirmed a £1.5 million grant in January.

Dominic Hill, artistic director of the theatre, said: “Our vision for this project is to create a building which honours and celebrates the remarkable history of this theatre, while remaining a vibrant and vital landmark in our community.

“The Citizens’ work on stage has long been celebrated for being bold, innovative and accessible to people from all walks of life, and I’m looking forward to working in a building that reflects that philosophy.”

Colin McLean, head of the HLF in Scotland, said: “The Citizens Theatre is held in great affection in Glasgow and far beyond although I don’t think anyone would disagree that it has seen better days. We are delighted to give our initial support to a project which will bring those better days back.

“We have a shared vision of the Citz becoming a place where friends can gather for a coffee, enjoy outstanding performances, learn about the performing arts, and discover the wonderful working heritage behind its scenes.”