Two years on from the temporary closure of one of the regions most beloved music andculture venues, Middlesbrough Town Hall is poised and ready to once again throw open its doors and welcome the North East and beyond to what Council leaders are labelling a ‘Town Hall for the 21st Century’.
It was Deepak Chopra who once proclaimed that ‘resurrection is a leap into a whole new way of thinking’; and for those behind the ambitious £7.7m refurbishment of the prestigious Town Hall in Middlesbrough, this much is true.
Officially opened in late January of 1889 by the then Prince and Princess of Wales, Middlesbrough Town Hall has cemented its foundation as an historic building representing the heart of civic life in the large post-industrial town of Middlesbrough; this being particularly significant throughout the earlier stages of the Town Hall’s prominence, as sections of the building were given over to the ‘municipal functions needed to keep the town running’ – this included the town’s Police and Fire Stations, a Courtroom and the Town Library.
With Middlesbrough Town Hall boasting a grand concert hall, equipped with an organ custom-built by distinguished organ builders William Hill and Son, it’s no surprise that music has been a key feature throughout the long history of the Grade II listed building.
The celebrated Russian pianist, composer, and conductor Sergei Rachmaninov performed twice in the first half of the twentieth century, foreshadowing the great performers that would later grace the Town Hall stage. Many artists of the romantic period and thereafter were to follow, with such eminent and now historic musicians as Dame Nellie Melba, Johann Strauss, and Sir Edward Elgar with the London Symphony Orchestra all staging great performances.
Despite a design accommodating predominantly for classical instruments and acoustics, the Town Hall continued to embrace new and contemporary musical practices and have over the years welcomed a number of top innovative artists to the illustrious stage in the heart of Middlesbrough; British legends such as David Bowie, The Clash and Oasis to name a few, have all taken stage at Middlesbrough Town Hall and international greats such as blues guitar luminary Sister Rosetta Tharpe and rock giants AC/DC have also made their presence known.
This year, even rock legends Status Quo make a rare appearance (21st July), cementing Middlesbrough Town Hall as the place to be and be seen!
With Middlesbrough Town Hall confirming its stature as an incredibly popular music and entertainment venue, the high public demand began to accumulate, proving too much for the 129-year-old building to cope. Attracting over 75,000 visitors per annum, it was confirmed in 2015 that the Town Hall would enter a period of refurbishment, thus naturally ensuing a short interval of closure.
Middlesbrough Council’s Deputy Mayor Cllr Dave Budd was quoted in an article from GazetteLive stating: “The Town Hall is the jewel in Middlesbrough’s crown and this project will restore it to its full majestic glory. Once complete, it will be a celebration of our 19th Century history with a 21st Century outlook.”
Indeed, as the new Town Hall prepares for its premiere performance on 1st May, with the world-renowned Bruckner Linz Orchestra it is already being termed a ‘Town Hall for the 21st Century’ as the Town Hall encourage you to experience classical music by giving away a free ticket with each ticket purchased for the Bruckner Linz performance. Not to mention their plans for artist takeovers, community collaboration spaces and exclusive secret gigs in the restored Victorian Courtroom!
The refurbishment of the Town Hall was made possible through the joint funding by Middlesbrough Council and the Heritage Lottery Fund; a staggering £3.7m has been invested into the redevelopment by the Heritage Lottery Fund, with the remaining £4m funded by the Council.
As Middlesbrough Town Hall takes its rightful place as one of the regions most loved heritage venues, it will also benefit from Arts Council England support. Now recognised as a National Portfolio Organisation, the Town Hall will receive an additional £249,000 per year until 2022, resulting in extra support for programmes and events whilst encouraging further diversity and inclusion for everyone.
Jane Tarr, Director North, Arts Council England, said: “We’re delighted that Middlesbrough Town Hall will be joining our National Portfolio for 2018-22 and I’m looking forward to seeing the results of the restoration.”
For more information and to keep up to date with future events, head to middlesbroughtownhall.co.uk.