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Curtain rises on new era for Liverpool theatre

29 Jul 11 Work has been completed on the £1 million refurbishment of the former Neptune Theatre in Liverpool.

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.

Acquired by Liverpool Corporation in 1967 to be ‘run by the people, for the people’, the 98-year-old,  Grade II listed theatre closed its doors in 2005as it failed to comply with safety regulations and was in need of major refurbishment.

Liverpool City Council Leader 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 Hanover Estate Management Ltd.

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 accessibility throughout.

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.

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“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 theatres.”

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.”

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.

Councillor Andersonadded: “This marks an excitingnew 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.”

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