Thursday, 26 January 2012

Southport's 'new cultural centre', update..


Today I visited  the building site on Lord Street where work on the former Arts Centre is well under way. The new building is certainly going to have a 'wow factor'.  The new design has brought masses of natural daylight into what was a dark building. By opening up archways and long blocked up windows there are some striking long sight lines right across the building pretty well from the Cambridge Arcade to Eastbank St.  

We began our tour at 1a Eastbank Street (which regular readers will recall was the address of FJ Hooper the Town Hall keeper who was part of Scott's last Antarctic expedition) It is called Eastbank Street-so I'm told-because the original building was a Bank and the architecture reflects that. We have some magnificent old bank buildings in Southport and this looks to have been as grand as many of them. The first picture shows the restored ceiling in what became the Atkinson Library

We had an enthusiastic host to show us around who explained in detail the work that has been undertaken.  The old studio theatre has been transformed and I guess will become a very popular venue. It was not part of the original building but was added in the 1980's to the old Cambridge Halls.
Although it was full of scaffolding you really got a feel of what the old dance hall was like. Today it a theatre  but with all the windows on the Lord Street side opened up it was transformed.
I guess the biggest impact will come from the light that will stream in from the glass roof above the central stairwell into the hallways.

During the renovation the builders have uncovered some forgotten mosaic floors. It is not clear if it will be able to include any of these into the final scheme. I think the team hope that one from the old banking hall (now the library) may be preserved.

I was struck by the electric blue tiles in the photo taken in the corridor outside the main theatre. Apparently the blue dye came from arsenic and there are very few examples surviving-which is not surprising as it must have had a very bad effect on the health of the workers. Thank goodness for modern Health and Safety. Talking of which there has not been any notifiable accidents at all during the building work. Up to 100 hundred employees have been on site from 15 different contractors.


When we got up to the roof you got to see some of the detailed restoration work close up that is normally hidden. Some of the sandstone carvings were impressive. I was good to learn that the specialist builders who was involved in this work had taken on a local unemployed lad who proved to have a real talent for this work. Some of the replacement stone work developed from moulds of the original was pointed out to us and it was pleasing to hear they were the work of the new recruit who has now been taken into permanent staff.

I had not realised that along the front of Cambridge Halls there are four figures all very well preserved. No one appeared very sure if they were Shakespearean characters, the season or the various ages of men.

The view from the roof-the picture was taken between the icy hail showers-gave some views of Lord Street



1 comment:

  1. Just back from holiday. One of the reasons I cast my first general election vote for the Liberals was co-ownership, profit-sharing etc. I am an unreformed Liberal on this issue ! Just look at the success of John Lewis. It was under Thatcher that we had the drive to scrap decent mutual banking/building society outfits to create a so-called shareholders democracy (whatever that is ? !) leading to a right mess, including B&B going to the wall. While I bank with the Co-op, not over impressed with their cosy financial support for Labour. Time to campaign for this to be more widely known ??

    David Tattersall

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