Belfast Theatre Close To 'Curtain-up'

The countdown has started to the opening of the new Lyric Theatre in Belfast.

The Stormont Arts Minister, Nelson McCausland, has been to the fast-growing new building prior to the official opening in May.

The new theatre, built on the Lyric's existing site at Ridgeway Street, Stranmillis, includes a 389 seat main auditorium, a new studio with flexible performance space, dedicated youth and education space and improved front and back of house facilities for staff and artists.

Speaking during his visit, the DUP Minister said: "I welcome the opportunity to view this impressive theatre now that construction work is complete.

"The Stormont Executive has committed approximately £9million to the new building which emphasises Government's commitment to supporting the arts and creative industries in Northern Ireland.

"This commitment proved fruitful last week when I secured over £4m of additional funding for the local arts sector for the next four years," the North Belfast MLA said.

"Investment in the arts contributes significantly to economic regeneration and this is particularly important in the current financial climate.

"The impact of the new Lyric will be experienced not just in Belfast but throughout Northern Ireland and beyond," he said, noting that the new theatre has also received funding from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council as well as a number of private sponsorships and donations.

The Minister continued: "Over the years, investment in the Arts infrastructure has increased significantly.

"Just last year the refurbished Crescent Arts Centre re-opened and through the North West Challenge Fund, we now have a significant number of high quality arts venues in the North West.

"Work is also ongoing on the new Metropolitan Arts centre which will provide further enhancement to the arts scene in Northern Ireland."

The BBC's Mark Carruthers, who is the Chairman of the Lyric Theatre, commented: "When we took the first steps on the journey to rebuild our home almost a decade ago we could only imagine the day we would finally move in, but that time has come at last.

"Our architects, the award-winning O'Donnell & Tuomey, along with construction team Gilbert Ash and many other theatre consultants have delivered an iconic building that has exceeded all expectations.

"This project has never been about just bricks and mortar though.

"We've said from day one that the new theatre building should never be an end in itself.

"The Lyric exists to present top quality theatre - and our new home will enable us to deliver on that commitment better than ever before. Make no mistake - what happens on our stages and in our rehearsal room and in our workshops is what matters most to us," he enthused.

In conclusion the Minister commended everyone involved in fundraising for the new theatre which raised over £5m through sponsorship and donations.

He said: "The theatre is a credit to all those who have helped to get it to this stage, in particular the contractor, architect, design team and of course the Board and staff of the Lyric who have worked tirelessly to get the project to this stage.

"I wish the Board and Staff of the Lyric well with the opening celebrations in May and I look forward to attending a performance in the new theatre in the near future."


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