It may have endured a barren few years thanks to funding cuts but the show will go on at a popular Powys arts hub after a cash injection of almost £200,000.
Work will start in the new year on a ‘complete refurbishment’ of the Wyeside Arts Centre’s iconic Market Theatre in Builth Wells that will transform the venue into what designers are promising will be a ‘modern auditorium.”
Supporters of Wyeside announced the ‘fantastic news” this week in what they described as a ‘huge boost’ to Builth, Wyeside and Mid Wales as a whole.
The new investment package totals £190,000 and those at the heart of the project say it will transform the downstairs of the building into a ‘state of the art’ facility.
The curtain is set to go up on work at the Market Theatre on January 3, 2012 and it is hoped the project will be completed by March.
Chair of the board of trustees at Wyeside, an elated Barbara Stow described the venue as ‘a landmark building’ in Mid Wales. “We want to treat Wyeside with the love and respect it deserves and the project will result in a more comfortable and flexible space in which to watch some wonderful performances.”
She thanked the ‘tireless’ work of the Friends of Wyeside, who she said had seen the Centre ‘through thick and thin’ while also singing the praises of the dedicated Wyeside staff, which presently numbers eight. “I must reserve a special mention for the staff, whose jobs have often been on the line, we owe a huge debt to them.”
Barbara added: “The support we’ve had from the community, from funders and other arts organisations over the past 18 months has encouraged us to make lots of plans for the cinema, live events, and for a fuller community programme.”
Architect Jonathan Lees said “The impending changes would give Wyeside a more flexible space, with new seating set to be introduced via an electrically operated bleacher system, ensuring audience comfort and enhanced views.”
A new Orchestra pit will be a feature and the Centre’s lighting system is set to receive an illuminating upgrade.
“The building will become a multi-use space that hosts a variety of events and performances. Its very exciting stuff.”
Builth mayor Adrian Jones described Wyeside as an ‘integral’ part of the town. “It was disastrous when there was a chance we could lose Wyeside but it’s been saved, despite losing its revenue funding from the Arts Council for Wales.”
Builth County Councillor Avril York hailed a momentous day in the history of the great venue. “This is not just important for Builth but Mid Wales and Powys as a whole. Wyeside has been through some pretty turgid times in recent years. There’s been so much doom and gloom and you always thought that the next story around the corner would be the closure of it, so this really is an historic day.”
The majority of funds have come from Aggregate Levy Fund, who is putting up £115,000 for the renovations, while Powys County Council, the Foyle Foundation, the Friends of Wyeside and other anonymous donors have also contributed.
Local firms JA Morgan and ACT Consultants will head up the project. In a sentimental twist, Chris Baldwin, of ACT, who designed the new plans, was also the first administrator of Wyeside in the 1970’s. Mr. Baldwin, who had been the theatre and lighting designer for the originally remodelled building, produced an imaginative and ambitious programme of events for the early years.
While previous flooding issues have been resolved, money will also be used to tackle several other problems around the building, including addressing the bridge windows.
Earlier this year, scaffolding surrounded the famous building while specialist Masons repaired decorative stonework and maintained the Centre’s dramatic Architecture.
The history of the Wyeside dates back to the 1870’s when local businessmen and dignitaries got together because the increasingly prosperous Spa town still had no covered market hall.
A combined market hall, assembly rooms and concert hall was built in 1877 and thrived more than a century.
Upstairs, the assembly rooms became the place to be seen for Builth society, with concerts, educational lectures and political meetings, tea dances and social soirees packing the programme.
With moving pictures becoming all the rage and travelling cinemas hugely popular at the end of the Edwardian years, the assembly rooms were converted into the Kino cinema showing pictures by Welsh film-makers and later American blockbusters.
New owners took charge in 1924 and, in 1927; new investment in technology saw the new sensation talking pictures come to Builth.
The Kino was refurbished in the 1930’s and became the Castle Cinema that still stands today.
In 1971, Wyeside Arts Centre Ltd was born and in 1976 the new Wyeside Arts Centre was opened.
The Friends of Wyeside held their first meeting on June 30 1980.
Since 1983, Wyeside has almost continually faced threats of closure and, in the last decade especially, staff and supporters have worked hard to write off the venue’s potentially crippling accumulated debts, stabilising the company and securing a more sustainable future, while the withdrawal of revenue funding by the Arts Council for Wales in very recent times has been the Wyside stalked by potential closure rumours.
Picture: Chair of the Wyeside board of trustees Barbara Stow, Builth Mayor Adrian Jones, Builth County Councillor Avril York and Architect Jonathan Lees pore over the new plans for Wyeside.