£500,000 grant could help bring West End to city

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WEST End producers could soon be coming to Portsmouth.

The New Theatre Royal is to receive a 500,000 grant to build a 'creative space' behind the stage and above the dressing rooms.

This will host acting lessons as well as being a rehearsal space for theatre companies preparing for West End shows.

Theatre director Caroline Sharman said: 'We're delighted.

'It means everything's in place for the refurbishment now.

'We're very excited and we're at the stage of talking to solicitors to draw up plans and get work started.

'When companies are rehearsing, they often need space outside London, as it's too expensive there.

'Many go to Plymouth, but lots of directors say they'll use our space when it's built.'

The Partnership for Urban South Hampshire - a body made up of council leaders from across the area - agreed to give the Guildhall Walk theatre the cash as part of its 4m refurbishment plans.

Push's money came from central government's New Growth Point funding.

It's also hoped the centre will help create a 'Made in Portsmouth' creative arts brand for the city.

It will be opened up to the city's creative businesses for networking, and used by theatre companies to develop new work.

Ms Sharman said: 'We have almost as many creative arts companies as Brighton, and this will be a place they can meet to work together.

'It will also be a place where the city's theatre companies can develop work to tour across the country, under the "Made in Portsmouth" brand.

'We're very excited.'

Portsmouth City Council leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said: 'This work can help Portsmouth become a national cultural centre.'

Push leader and Fareham council leader Sean Woodward added: 'The money will be used to increase culture and jobs in Portsmouth, as well as increasing our region's cultural standing.'

It is hoped work on the centre will begin by the end of this year, and be completed by September 2013.