Levelling up: Derby gets cash for new learning theatre

Published: 19 January 2023
Reporter: Steve Orme

Derby’s Assembly Rooms: closed since 2014 Credit: Steve Orme
How a new learning theatre on the Assembly Rooms site could look

Derby has secured £20 million from the government’s levelling-up funding towards a plan to redevelop the Assembly Rooms site in the city centre.

In 2014, the 1,200-seat venue suffered extensive damage because of a fire in the plant room, which powered the electricity and lighting supply, on top of its car park. The Assembly Rooms did not reopen.

Now Derby city council, the University of Derby and Derby Theatre have successfully bid for money to create a purpose-built learning theatre on the site.

In a joint statement, professor Kathryn Mitchell, vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Derby who chairs the Derby Theatre board, and Sarah Brigham, the theatre’s chief executive and artistic director, said, “we’re delighted that the government see Derby as a place to invest in and culture as the driving force for regeneration.

“The learning theatre model, which the University of Derby and Derby Theatre have trailblazed over the past 10 years, has shown real impact for the city, not only by bringing critically acclaimed and award-winning shows to our stages but also in the impact it has had on our communities.”

The city council believes a vibrant cultural sector plays a critical part in delivering economic growth and attracting investment. It is estimated that a new venue would increase theatre attendance by 83,000 and attract an additional 25,000 visitors to Derby each year, generating an additional £1.7 million per year for the local economy.

Construction work on a 3,500-capacity performance venue, known as the Becketwell Arena, which is only a few hundred yards away from the Assembly Rooms site, will start later in 2023.