Barbican Theatre and The Plymouth Athenaeum are delighted to announce the launch of PL1 Partnership to develop The Plymouth Athenaeum as a vibrant theatre, music, comedy, dance, lecture, and screenings venue. 

PL1 Partnership is led by directors of both organisations who will work together to upgrade the building and bring it fully into public use.

Owen Ryles, Chief Executive of The Plymouth Athenaeum, says: “We are delighted to be entering into the next stage of our developing partnership with Barbican Theatre with the formation of PL1 Partnership. The plan to undertake a full refurbishment of the building by 2030 offers an exciting opportunity for both organisations to continue to grow and play a key role in arts, culture and education in Plymouth for decades to come.”

The Plymouth Athenaeum stage closed to the public in 2009 and re-opened in 2017 through a Social Enterprise Investment Fund grant and loan from Plymouth City Council. This boost helped to reinstate basic lighting and sound to this well-loved auditorium making it possible to bring local artists work onto the stage and support the development of the creative industries in the city.

Sheila Snellgrove, Chief Executive of Barbican Theatre explains “There is a huge gap in provision for artists in the city and PA will provide a crucial pathway for creatives to show their work at middle scale and build an audience. This is essential if we want to stem the well –recognised talent drain to Bristol and London. We also want to see an eclectic mix of toured in shows on the stage that have commercial value so that we can pour it back into talent development”.

Over the past 18 months the partnership has experimented with its programme which has included The Fab Beatles, Le Navet Bete’s Dracula: The Bloody Truth, Avant Garde Dance’s Fagin’s Twist, comedian Iain Stirling’s U OK HUN?x, Plymkids Les Miserables, James Wilton Dance’s The Storm,  The Story Of The Beach Boys® and recently our FUSE Diverse Dance production of Put On your Red Shoes. 

The well-loved Devon based comedy troupe Le Navet Bete completed two highly successful Christmas Shows at The Plymouth Athenaeum – A Christmas Carol (2017) and Aladdin (2018). The mid-scale venue was an essential stepping-stone for the company at a time when they needed to progress from small-scale in order to stay local. Le Navet Bete’s Al Dunn says

“We knew we had a loyal Plymouth audience and we’ve sold out the Barbican every year for 7 years– going to the Athenaeum was a massive step, almost doubling our audience size just at the time when we needed it – and we did it. We are massively grateful for the opportunity and want to do more work in the city”.

PL1 Partnership have commissioned a pre-feasibility report from the internationally recognised Theatre Projects Consultants who have worked on major Theatres, Arts Centres, Museums and Concert Halls worldwide. Their expertise will help to shape and plan how to create an innovative, flexible, hardworking, and efficient space at PA to achieve a great audience experience and enable The Athenaeum to continue and improve on its 200-year history as a hub for lifelong learning well into the 21st century.

Theatre Projects Consultants were asked to look at a phased approach to development with a full refurbishment complete by 2030. Their recommendations include removable seating, additional toilets, a public cafe and electrical upgrade as Phase 1 with plans for new bars, storage, offices, dressing rooms and flexible function room as Phase 2.

PL1 Partnership is currently in discussion with Arts Council England, The Theatre Trust, Rank Foundation and others to put together a funding package to begin this exciting process.

PL1 Partnership are inviting members of the public and media to join them at The Plymouth Athenaeum from 11am – 12pm on Friday 22 March, where there will be a chance to look at preliminary drawings and plans and talk to PL1 Partnership directors.



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