Curtain rises on new era
THE Stage is set for one of Liverpool’s best
loved theatres to take its place at the heart of cultural life in
the city once more.
Work has been completed on the £1 million refurbishment of the
former Neptune Theatre. The Hanover Street venue has been brought up
to 21st century standards and now has a new name - The Epstein
Theatre – in honour of former Beatles manager Brian Epstein, who
guided the Fab Four from popular cellar act to global superstardom.
Liverpool City Council Leader, Councillor Joe Anderson, will join
guests - including arts professionals and venue landlord David
Ramsey - for the first official tour of the theatre, to see how the
iconic venue has been restored to its former glory.
The event will also see the official unveiling of the stunning new
Epstein signage adorning the front of the building.
Acquired by Liverpool Corporation in 1967 to be ‘run by the
people, for the people’, the 98 year old, Grade II listed
theatre had to closed its doors back in 2005, as it failed to comply
with safety regulations and was in need of major refurbishment.
Councillor Joe Anderson made the re-opening of the theatre one of
his major priorities, and after ensuring the funding needed to carry
out the refurbishment was ring-fenced, he personally agreed terms
with the landlord, David Ramsey of Hanover Estate Management Ltd at
the end of 2010, so that the redevelopment could begin.
The £1 million investment in the venue consists of £750,000 funding
from the city council and a further £250,000 from the Hanover Estate
Councillor Anderson said:- "This marks an exciting new
beginning for the theatre, ushering in a new chapter in its
illustrious history. It is a venue with an extremely rich heritage,
which has been an important landmark on our cultural scene for many,
many years. I’m absolutely delighted that our dream to bring it back
into use is now officially a reality. The closure of the Neptune
left a gaping hole in Liverpool’s cultural scene and its absence has
been sorely felt by performers and audiences alike. I’m now looking
forward to us bringing in a top-class operator so that we can
complete the final part of our journey to restore the theatre as a
platform for new and renowned performers, as well as invaluable
resource for community groups."
Councillor Anderson said of the re-naming of the venue:- "I’m
delighted Brian’s family accepted our request to rename this venue
The Epstein Theatre, as it gives us a fantastic opportunity to say
thank you to one of our greatest sons. It also means we have a
theatre with a world famous name which will hopefully make it a more
attractive business, commercially. Brian Epstein’s contribution to
our city goes much further than The Beatles. He put many Liverpool
acts on the road to success and as such played a major part in
helping establish the city as a music mecca. It’s fitting that such
a well loved performance venue will now serve as a permanent tribute
An Epstein family spokesman said of the new name for the theatre:-
"It’s a wonderful homage to Brian. He loved the theatre and
knew this one well. Just above Crane’s Music Shop and only a few
minutes walk from..."
...continued... "...N.E.M.S (North End Music
Stores) - the family business in Great Charlotte Street - Brian,
along with his brother Clive, and parents Queenie and Harry, would
often catch a performance. On behalf of all of them, we’d like to
thank the City Council for this special tribute to Brian and his
continuing role in Liverpool’s historic story and we wish this fine
theatre every success in the future."
Liverpool based Nobles
Construction and architects 2020 Liverpool have been responsible for
the restoration, which has seen the 400 seat Edwardian venue brought
up to 21st century standards - with new mahogany front doors,
restored crystal chandeliers and modernisation features such as a
complete replacement of electrics, disabled toilets and wheelchair
The council is now looking for an operator to run the theatre and
following feedback from an initial search has put together a package
which it believes will be appealing to potential operators in
challenging economic times.
A tendering process will begin shortly to find an impresario who can
make the theatre a major community venue.
The city council hopes to have an
organisation in place by the end of the year to deliver a top
quality community theatre programme, with the curtain possibly
rising on shows once more by Christmas 2011.
David Ramsey, who performed at the Neptune as a boy, and has owned
and managed Hanover House since 1987, said:- "I have a deep
affection for this theatre and great childhood memories. I have said
from the start that no one will be happier than me when it re-opens
– and now that time has arrived. The Neptune is a very special
theatre, with a fantastic story to tell. I’m delighted that its
story can now continue with its new name, new sparkle and, in the
near future, new operator. These are really exciting times for the
theatre, and I’m looking forward to it going from strength to
strength in the years to come."
Sophie Nixon of 2020 Liverpool, architectural conservationist and
project manager of the Neptune refurbishment, said:- "It’s
been a great privilege to have worked on the project and to have
found that so many of the beautiful original features could be
retained and restored. The chandelier is a great example of this –
when lit up it really sparkles and gives an insight to how the
original theatre must have looked. Our brief was to refurbish the
internal parts of the theatre and improve access, in line with the
Disability Discrimination Act, and we wanted to do all this whilst
retaining as much of the original fabric as possible. We worked
closely with Liverpool City Council in order to do so and I’m really
pleased with the completion of what has been a fantastic team
effort. The refurbishment and modernisation of the theatre has
brought it firmly back into the 21st century and now we can’t wait
to see the curtain rise again on one of Liverpool’s most special
Peter Linford, director at Nobles Construction, said:- "The
theatre looks fantastic. There has been great attention to detail to
ensure the restoration is sympathetic to its Edwardian heritage,
while also bringing it into the 21st Century for modern day use. The
Neptune has always been one of Liverpool’s cultural jewels and we’re
delighted to be handing the building back to Liverpool City Council
as it enters the next step in its history."