CHICHESTER Festival Theatre has received millions of pounds towards its bid to upgrade the venue.
The Arts Council England today confirmed it will put £12m towards the theatre’s Renew campaign.
The project’s aim is to restore and upgrade the theatre.
The cash immediately unlocks an additional £8m in pledged local support from businesses, trusts and individuals, as well as West Sussex County Council and Chichester District Council which have pledged £1.5m and £500,000 respectively.
It also means that £20m of the total cost of over £22m project has been raised and that contracts can be put to tender immediately with a view to work starting before the end of the year.
The planned works, which will take 18 months to complete, incorporate essential repairs to the Grade II listed theatre, an extension, and increased seating capacity.
It also includes improved access and public facilities, improved backstage facilities and changes to make the building more energy efficient.
The fundraising campaign, which has run for two years, will continue to raise the remaining £2m.
A planning application has been made to Chichester District Council to build a temporary 1,400-seat ‘Pavilion on the Park’ in which to house Festival 2013 productions, alongside those that will play in the Minerva Theatre, during the extensive building work.
A decision on this application is yet to be made.
The theatre’s executive director Alan Finch said: ‘This news is the icing on the cake in our 50th anniversary year and the result of two years of hard work.’
He added: ‘We are incredibly grateful to Arts Council England for this extraordinary endorsement of our ambitious plan of restoration and improvement.’