£80m ‘cultural quarter’ plan could see Wyvern Theatre move to Kimmerfields

THE Wyvern Theatre could move to the Kimmerfields site if a transformational new £80m scheme gets the go-ahead.

Under the plans, the town’s theatre would double in capacity and be joined by a new museum and art gallery in what Swindon Borough Council has labelled a ‘cultural quarter’. It would sit close to the railway station and the planned £33m ‘bus boulevard’.

Councillors are due to vote on whether to move forward with the scheme – likely to take 10 years to complete – next week.

Selling the theatre’s current site and possibly the council offices in Euclid Street could help pay for the scheme. The latter building would also move to the ‘cultural quarter’.

Once complete, the development is predicted to add more than £35m a year to Swindon’s economy and produce as many as 1,200 jobs.

Town centre cabinet member councillor Dale Heenan said: “When I took over as cabinet member, I made it clear to everyone that there needed to be a focus on fewer, more impactful projects that will make a visible difference to Swindon – and that change doesn’t happen overnight.

“The pieces of the jigsaw are slowly fitting together, with cranes and diggers now on site for the first new office development (Zurich) in 20 years, imminent decisions for £50 million of funding bids for the town centre, a refurbished Health Hydro, completion of the fantastic Carriage Works regeneration, new Hampton by Hilton and Premier Inn hotels and much more.

“Now is the time to present plans for a new cultural quarter and build on Swindon’s momentum to ensure that, by 2030, we will see a very different town centre.

“Cabinet’s ambition is to see the building of a new Wyvern Theatre with capacity doubled to 1,200 seats, which will attract the best national and regional shows and performers for residents to enjoy.

“We also want to deliver a new museum and art gallery that proudly displays Swindon’s nationally recognised collection of artefacts and exhibits.

“If approved by cabinet next week, the next six months will see focus placed on writing the financial business case and investment prospectus, for the £78m needed to bring the cultural quarter to life.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Swindon and we must grasp it with both hands.”

Early computer-generated images show the ‘cultural quarter’ would take up the existing bus station site as well as the rest of the land alongside the new Zurich offices, which are currently under construction.

Swindon’s arts groups have backed the new plans, saying it will provide more space for them to expand and attract more people.

Swindon Dance artistic director Viv Slayford said: “Swindon Dance has been based in the town hall for over 40 years and while the building has been the bedrock to our early development it is now a cap on our future growth.

“Moving to the cultural quarter will give us the space and facilities to continue to grow and prosper across all areas of our work – professional and non-professional, local and international.

“It will also enable us to work with Swindon’s other cultural organisations to kick start the town’s economy and bring the passion and heart back to our town centre.

“Swindon Dance has a national and international reputation for developing young and professional talent in the dance world, supporting the growth of the art-form on the international stage and for making quality dance projects accessible to our local community regardless of a person’s background.”

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