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Westminster welcome for main players in story of new Shakespeare North Playhouse

Cllr Jayne Aston, Cllr Sean Donnelly, Dame Judi Dench, Cllr Shelley Powell and Cllr Graham Morgan, Leader of Knowsley Council at the Shakespeare North Playhouse event in London. Credit: Knowsley Council

Leading lights from the world of theatre and the arts, as well as prominent politicians, have gathered to lend their support to Knowsley’s new Shakespeare North Playhouse at an event held in Parliament.

VIP guests including multi award-winning actress Dame Judi Dench were welcomed to the event by Knowsley MP Sir George Howarth.

They were given an update on this major cultural project that is now under construction in Prescot.

When complete, the flexible 320 to 380-seat Playhouse, modelled on the cockpit-in-court design of the 17th century will complete a ‘Shakespearean Triangle’ – London, Stratford-Upon-Avon and Prescot.

It will also provide cradle to grave learning opportunities, an outdoor performance garden, ‘black box’ studio theatre, exhibition centre and visitor attraction.

With only a couple of years to go until opening night, Knowsley Council says the Playhouse is creating a buzz in the world of theatre and performing arts with a number of recognisable faces supporting the project.

They include Knowsley actor Josh Bolt, screenwriter Frank Cottrell-Boyce and Lady Anne Dodd, the wife of the late Sir Ken Dodd, whose generous donation from the Ken Dodd Charitable Trust will create an outdoor Performance Garden at the Playhouse.

Dame Judi Dench is a Patron of the Shakespeare North Trust and a keen supporter of the project.

It is no secret that I am absolutely passionate about Shakespeare and his work and the idea of bringing this love of language to a new generation and to communities in the north of England is something I am completely behind.

– Dame Judy Dench

Due to open its doors in 2022, the Playhouse will be an inclusive venue which will not only host high profile Shakespearean drama but also a variety of comedy, music and theatre performances.

Attracting people from around the globe, the Playhouse is expected to welcome more than 140,000 visitors per annum and inject £10 million into the local economy through secondary spend.

Politicians say the regenerative impact of the project can already be seen in Prescot.

It is quite remarkable to see the impact the Playhouse is having on Prescot, even before the very first brick is laid. New bars and restaurants are opening and sense of positivity and optimism is tangible.

– Sir George Howarth MP

The majority of the funding for the Shakespeare North Playhouse project is coming from Knowsley Council with support from the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and central Government.

Alongside this, more than £1 million of philanthropic funding has been secured, including a major contribution from the Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation Trust.

The opening of the theatre in 2022 will coincide with Knowsley’s year as Liverpool City Region Borough of Culture.

Spreading the message about the Playhouse is a major priority for us so it seems only fitting that we bring this project to London and to the historic Palace of Westminster.

– Max Steinberg CBE, Chair of the Shakespeare North Trust