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Video: Norwich Theatre Royal reveals plans for a £3m education centre

PUBLISHED: 09:35 30 August 2014 | UPDATED: 09:37 30 August 2014

Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: Steve Adams

Norwich Theatre Royal. Photo: Steve Adams

The curtain looks set to go up on ambitious plans to build a £3m-plus Education and Skills Centre to inspire Norfolk’s young people to aim high in life and build successful careers in the world of work.

Norwich Theatre Royal plans to construct it on the site of a semi-derelict building towards the rear of the theatre in a bid to boost the abilities and confidence of the county’s younger residents.

The new centre will house a purpose-built 80-seat performance space which will be used by junior and adult performers taking part in the theatre’s in-house arts courses. It will also house the many activities managed by the Theatre Royal’s education department. It will contain learning/rehearsal rooms, technical training facilities, a small workshop, and offices which will bring the theatre’s education department and arts courses under one roof.

Peter Wilson, Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive, said: “We are an educational charity. Our ambitious education vision will provide thousands of Norfolk schoolchildren with meaningful learning experiences, thereby equipping them with the confidence, ambition and skills to succeed in life. This new Education and Skills Centre will transform the breadth of learning opportunities that we offer.

“The lack of a dedicated learning space also means there are key opportunities we cannot currently take up. We have visiting companies that would be happy to engage with local schools and students, and our technical staff would also share their skills with local young people.”

Already 60pc of the funding has been secured for the building with further grant applications submitted to various bodies.

Those who have already donated to the project include The Garfield Weston Foundation, The Monument Trust, The Norwich Town Close Estate Charity, the Paul Bassham Charitable Trust and the Geoffrey Watling Charity.

The planning application for the new building has now been submitted to Norwich City Council for permission and will be discussed by councillors at a planning committee meeting next week. Subject to the green light being given and full funding being secured, the building is expected to take about nine months to construct.

Gordon Boyd, assistant director of education strategy and commissioning at Norfolk County Council, is welcoming the project. He said: “No other theatre arts course provider in East Anglia offers such connections or expertise as Norwich Theatre Royal. “It already undertakes a programme of life-changing work for our young people but this centre would transform their reach and the scale of learning opportunities they offer, ultimately transforming the life chances of our local young people.”

The theatre’s breadth of education work has already been experienced by a number of schools across the county since 1997, reaching 90pc of primary schools in Norfolk.

This has been achieved in a number of ways including workshops linked to shows, work experience placements, and the twice-yearly Norfolk Schools Project which has already been completed by over 100 schools and sees young people create an opera from scratch before performing it on the Norwich Theatre Royal stage.

A more recent project is the creation of an umbrella trust with Arden Grove Infant and Nursery School and Hellesdon High School, both in Norwich, who have been involved in a number of cross-curricular projects with the theatre and visiting productions.

Hellesdon High School head teacher Gerry Batty said: “This centre would transform opportunities for students locally. Norwich Theatre Royal’s work is not just an ‘add on’ to academic learning. These kinds of experiences can play vital transformative roles in building up confidence and inspiring young people to aim high in their careers.

“This is something that is desperately needed in this area, particularly in the current climate when the job market is so competitive.”

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