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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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Carlisle College reveals plans for £5.3m arts complex

A new £5.3 million arts complex is poised to transform a derelict pocket of Carlisle city centre.

Carlisle college photo
Steve Salked, assistant principal

Carlisle College wants to enhance the city’s cultural credentials with an “iconic” building – including theatre space – on the site of a disused sports hall.

The project is the latest in a series of schemes to overhaul the 1,400-student college’s campus and comes on the back of upgrades that have already topped £20m in seven years.

It is also another element in overhauls which have changed the face of education in the city centre, including a £20m rebuild of neighbouring Trinity School and the creation of the Richard Rose Central Academy on the former St Aidan’s School site.

College leaders will have a £3m grant towards the digital and creative arts centre confirmed next month.

They hope it will be open by late summer 2014 and create new learning opportunities.

Work is now starting on drawing up detailed plans about how their vision will take shape.

The building, on Strand Road, will house further education students who currently share space with those from the University of Cumbria at its Brampton Road site.

As well as the theatre space – which could either be a fixed area or one which could also be converted for other uses – features will include performance rehearsal areas, music recording and rehearsal booths and media editing suites.

There will also be a studio and gallery space to showcase the work of up-and-coming artists.

College assistant principal Steve Salkeld told The Cumberland News: “The university have been an excellent partner with us, but both organisations are looking to consolidate their estates.

“This gives us the opportunity to create something brand new – a state-of-the-art building with state-of-the-art technology which is very much fit for purpose.

“We hope to grow the number of courses and number of levels we offer.”

The site on which the new arts complex would stand is the former sports hall at Swifts Mews, originally built as a drill hall and which was later an indoor sports area before The Sands Centre was built.

It is already owned by the college – next to its main buildings and visible off Georgian Way – and has stood empty for a number of years, falling into an increasing state of disrepair.

A former church hall building on the corner of the proposed development site would be unaffected.

It is expected that the vast majority of the old hall buildings will have to go. Whether parts of it are retained will form part of talks between the college’s design team and council planners.

Mr Salkeld said: “This building is in desperate need of something and this project is the catalyst to help that.

“We want to have an iconic building.”

The £3m grant to support the scheme is coming from the Skills Funding Agency, which will confirm its contribution on Thursday February 14.

College principal Moira Tattersall is delighted they’ve been selected for funding and is confident the centre will have wider economic and social spin-offs.

She said: “Confirmation of this funding will enable us to develop provision in the creative, digital and arts sector by providing bespoke industry-standard facilities.

“This will further enhance education choices in Carlisle and the surrounding area. It will also enable new and growing businesses to access specialist resources on a commercial basis.”

Other investment partners are being sought to secure the rest of the cash needed for the centre.

The arts have been a growth academic area in Cumbria.

Supporters believe that, as well as improving the college, the new centre may also have a spin-off for the University of Cumbria, with students who complete further education courses progressing to those at degree level.

They are also confident it will enhance the wider arts scene at a time when Carlisle City Council is pursuing plans to create an arts centre in the former Methodist Hall on Fisher Street.

Carlisle City Council leader Joe Hendry is delighted with the college’s cash news. He had written a letter of support backing the application to secure the £3m funding.

Mr Hendry said: “When we have our new arts centre, what the college will be doing at its centre and what we’ll be doing should complement each other.”

He also believes the complex will freshen up the area in which it will be built.

“This is great for the college and great for the city because we can work together to create something really special,” added Mr Hendry, who has already highlighted the college’s funding success to fellow councillors.

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