Stage is set for new-look Lowther

Roger McCann, manager of Lowther Pavilion
Roger McCann, manager of Lowther Pavilion
  • Fylde’s only theatre to undergo major redevelopment
  • Work to coincide with Lowther Pavilion’s centenery
  • Council has pledged £123,000 towards roof works
  • Plan will see gardens and theatre intertwine
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Management at Fylde’s only theatre want to celebrate its forthcoming centenary by making it a venue fit for the next 100 years.

The trustees of the Lowther Pavilion are in the early stages of looking to a major redevelopment of the Lytham venue as they prepare for its 100th anniversary in 2021.

By opening up the whole front of house area we can bring the foyer, café and bar into one large public meeting space

Tim Lince

The hope is that development will be phased over several years, with a major new look for the venue including glass walls and a glass atrium allowing the Pavilion building – originally built in 1921 and revamped in the 1980s – to become more integral with the surrounding Lowther Gardens.

It is hoped the initial stage of the work, to coincide with the roof repairs next summer, will see the creation of a new open-plan foyer area to include the box office, café and a tourist information centre.

Much-needed work on the repair and replacement of the theatre roof is set to get under way next summer and the trustees, who took over the running of the venue from Fylde Council in 2012, say funding from Fylde Council for that project has provided the impetus to look at the building “in a more holistic manner”.

Fylde Council has already pledged £123,000 towards the roof. Venue manager Roger McCann and trust officials say an overall cost for the project will not be clear until the initial stage of the design work has been completed but are looking into launching a public fund-raising programme.

Interviews take place tomorrow for a building and projects manager to spearhead the project and the trustees have enlisted Lytham-based architectural practice, CreativeSPARC, to look into developing plans and local architect Matthew Hill to advise on the overall process.

Longer term plans are set to include glass walls and glass atrium on the side of the building facing Lowther Gardens to allow for an integral indoor and outdoor space, while the provision of a new studio theatre space at the rear of the existing building is also on the cards.

Tim Lince, chairman of the trustees, said: “The Pavilion will celebrate its centenary in 2021, which makes this the perfect time to look at how we create a venue for the next 100 years.

“It has been, and will always be, a venue for the whole community and we want the whole community to be part of securing its future.

“The Pavilion is in a magnificent location but it can look as though it has been placed in the grounds without any thought to its visual impact. It is an integral part of the Gardens and our brief to the design team is to explore how we can bring the Gardens and the theatre more closely together.

“Our vision is for a building that allows the Gardens to ‘come inside’ through the use of glass walls and an atrium.

“The existing Lowther building has been developed in a piecemeal fashion over many years, with the result that it now gives the impression of a series of corridors.

“By opening up the whole front of house area we can bring the foyer, café and bar into one large public meeting space where people can meet, have a coffee or a meal, buy tickets and get information, all the while feeling as though they’re actually sitting in the gardens.”

Roger McCann, general manager of the Pavilion, added: “The Pavilion is a much loved building and a wonderful community resource.

“However, it’s showing signs of age and is in urgent need of an upgrade to make it fit for the 21st Century.

“Since the Trust took over four years ago the programme has increased enormously; we will have more than 250 events this year. I think the quality of the artists appearing is also improving as our reputation grows and the building needs to match that quality in terms of the experience for both the customers and the artists.

“For example, it is unacceptable in today’s world not to have showers available for artists after the performance.

“One of the strengths of the theatre is its flexibility and ability to present shows in theatre style and events like dances or antique fairs with a flat floor, but that comes at a price. It can take three hours to transform the space from one layout to another.

“That’s why one of our priorities is to replace the seating with a system that will allow greater flexibility.”

Mr Lince added: “Whenever there are development projects like this it is always the first bit of funding that is the most difficult to secure.

“Without that it is just a dream rather than an attainable goal.

“With the enormous vote of confidence in the theatre and its management team shown by councillors we now have that first funding in place.”

Andy Wolfe of CreativeSPARC, currently working on designs for the revamp, said: “Our aim is to reinstate the pavilion as a local architectural landmark and to transform the existing building into an exciting place to visit and spend time, at the heart of community life”.

Coun Sue Fazackerley, Fylde Council cabinet member for tourism and leisure for the past six years, said: “Lowther Pavilion is a real gem in Fylde’s crown and it is exciting to hear of these ideas. We look forward to seeing how these plans progress.”

The Friends of Lowther Pavilion, who have raised thousands of pounds for the venue in recent years, will have the ideas for the venue outlined to hem at a meeting next week and Friends chairman Janet Radcliffe said: “We look forward to hearing more.”