First look inside the North West's new Shakespeare theatre in Prescot
A new £38 million theatre for the North West - the Shakespeare North Playhouse - is about to open its doors.
It has been entirely built through the pandemic, thanks to public funds and donations, and is expected to bring thousands of visitors to Prescot in Knowsley in Merseyside.
Its supporters hope it will be a catalyst for economic regeneration, community engagement, education and developing a new generation of talent.
Shakespeare North Playhouse (SNP) Chief Executive Melanie Lewis said: "It's just so stunning, it's beautiful. I've got a brilliant team and they have just pulled this magnificent project together.
"I can't wait to get to the 15 July because then we have our opening ceremony, all the joy at an outside event, everybody's invited, it's going to be really, really exciting."
In the 1590s, a remarkable theatre stood in the town and hosted performances made possible by the Earl of Derby, resident at Knowsley Hall. It is thought that it was the only purpose-built indoor playhouse outside of London, and players brought with them new shows from a popular playwright of the day... William Shakespeare.
The theatre is already said to be drawing consumers and businesses to Prescot - called the “Shakespeare effect."
It is anticipated to attract over 140,000 visitors a year to the region.
The venue will run a number of initiatives including a ‘pay what you decide’ scheme, to eliminate the financial barriers for those who may not usually be able to access high-quality arts and culture.
SNP will actively be taking on volunteers, which in return will support many people back into work.
The Playhouse's opening programme will include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, A Christmas Carol, and evenings with Johnny Vegas and Jimmy McGovern.
Steve Rotheram, mayor of the Liverpool City Region, which invested £10.5m into Shakespeare North Playhouse, said: “This is a really exciting day for our area, as we add yet another world class attraction.
"The Liverpool City Region is the UK’s cultural capital - home to a thriving arts and creative scene that has been entertaining the masses for decades, and where some of our country’s greatest performers perfected their trade.
“The Shakespeare Playhouse will be the jewel in that crown - a spectacular statement of the enormous cultural contribution that our region has gifted to the world.
The theatre promises to be an incredible new asset - not only for Knowsley - but for the entire North West, attracting more jobs, more investment, and offering a brilliant resource for the local communities."