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Plymouth’s Athenaeum secures Historic England funding

Plymouth’s historic Athenaeum could soon reopen to the public thanks to a £84K grant from Historic England. 

Plymouth City Council have been working hard to communicate with the charity to apply for the funding under their High Street Heritage Action Zone scheme, with great success. 

The building is important in Plymouth’s post-war history, located in the City Centre Conservation Area. 

Thanks to the funding, Plymouth City Council are hoping to to repair the windows, steel frames, concrete wall cladding and brickwork, roof parapets and edging, and external lighting and signage.

In a quote on the subject, Councillor Mark Shayer, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Finance noted the likes of Charles Darwin and Stanley Gibbons amongst the Athenaeum historic members. 

He also noted the likes of the Beatles, Arnold Schwartzenegger and Malcolm McDowell as previous performers in the venue. 

Shayer added “this funding will help improve the state of this important building and hopefully see the Athenaeum open its doors once more and resume its important role in the city’s cultural scene.”

The building is an impressive part of Plymouth, with not only a 340 seat theatre, but a lecture hall, meeting rooms and library too. 

Some of the meeting rooms and the library are still open to the public, and is an important funding revenue alongside memberships, donations and investments. 

However, no major events have been held in the Athenaeum since before the pandemic due to repair and maintenance.

Owen Ryles, Chief Executive of the Athenaeum, says: “The HSHAZ funding will help to address a range of repair and maintenance issues to the outside of the building and give the front of the Athenaeum a much-needed and very welcome facelift, which will significantly improve its appearance.”

Principal Inspector of Historic Buildings at Historic England South West added: “The Athenaeum symbolises the spirit of the post war rebuilding of Plymouth. The City was confident to rebuild a cultural institution that had been lost to the Blitz in a bold and modern style. It’s a miniature version of London’s Royal Festival Hall, and with a bit of care and attention it’ll look just as stylish as its famous counterpart once again.”

Plymouth City Council also hope to continue funding campaigns to work on improvements to the front of the buildings and add a disabled access ramp. 

They also hope to raise funds for internal repair work to the theatre balcony and toilets in the hopes of reopening the theatre. 

The Plymouth City Centre High Street Action Zone is a 4 year programme to celebrate, enhance and adapt the City Centre for a more attractive and vibrant place to live and work.

The Heritage Action Zone (HAZ) project is managed by Plymouth City Council and Plymouth Culture, with support from The Box and Plymouth Octopus Project. 

It’s part of a £95 million government-funded programme, delivered by Historic England to unlock the potential of 60 high streets across the country.

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