Work is well under way on the refurbishment of Tamworth’s Assembly Rooms which is on track to reopen later this year, billed as a ‘new-look modern theatre’ for the town.

The multi-million project is the biggest overhaul of the Corporation Street venue since it was built 130 years ago.

 

Main contractor, Novus Property Solutions, have been busy building extensions to the sides and rear of the theatre, carrying out masonry and roof repairs, moving internal walls, lifting floors, improving utilities and refurbishing and preserving the windows and other historic features.

Refurbishment of Tamworth's Assembly Rooms - the main auditorium.

At busiest times, up to 30 or 40 tradespeople can be on site, from electricians and mechanical engineers to carpenters, bricklayers, theatre equipment specialists and plasterers.

As well as starting work on the extensions, contractors have also laid the groundwork for improved facilities throughout the building, including alterations to the roof space for improved heating and ventilation in the main auditorium.

 

In the coming months, new flooring will be laid, traditional plasterwork will be going back on the walls and the extensions will be made watertight.

The ambitious project includes a complete change of the internal layout, apart from the main auditorium, to make the building more versatile.

The new side extension includes extra toilet facilities and an extended backstage area.

The aim is for the glass-fronted multi-use space at the front of the new extension to be used for events such as conferences, art exhibitions, galleries and meetings. During the evenings, it could be used for smaller events such as open-mic nights and poetry readings, while on busy show evenings, it will be used as a secondary bar area to the main café/bar which is being created on the other side of the building.

Refurbishment of Tamworth's Assembly Rooms - the new side extension as viewed facing Corporation Street.

The rear of the extension will provide improved backstage facilities, including a glass-walled ‘green room’, practice space for performers and dressing rooms.

The difficult task of co-ordinating all the work is down to Novus site manager Mark McWilliams, who says making sure the right people and materials are on site at just the right time is a careful juggling act.

“It is very challenging, but I am enjoying it and it will be a lovely project when it’s finished,” Mark said.

“As well as the end result, I look forward to all the different stages of a project such as getting the roof on, getting the glazing sorted, seeing the walls going up – I look forward to all the components that make the end product.

“The key to a successful build is doing things in the right sequence, even if that means waiting for something to happen before the next job can take place, as this saves time in the long run.”

Mark McWilliams on site at the refurbishment of Tamworth's Assembly Rooms.

The Assembly Rooms refurbishment is part of the wider £6.1m scheme to create a new Enterprise Quarter in the heart of Tamworth, which includes a new restaurant in the Carnegie Centre.

It is being funded by the Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent LEP Single Local Growth Fund (£2.95m), the Heritage Lottery Fund (£903,400), Arts Council England (£365,000) and the remainder from Staffordshire County Council and Tamworth Borough Council.

 

Cllr Steve Claymore, Tamworth Borough Council’s Cabinet member for Heritage and Growth, said: “Tamworth Assembly Rooms was built to celebrate the golden jubilee of Queen Victoria and has been entertaining audiences ever since.

“We have a duty to make sure this iconic building continues to thrive so that it can be enjoyed by many more generations of Tamworth people and visitors to the town. But for that to happen, the theatre has to be modernised and it has to diversify.

“It’s great to see the new extensions taking shape and the building work progressing and we look forward to welcoming people back through the doors this year.”