Shakespeare North Playhouse could be transformational for Prescot and inspire future playwrights

Video report by ITV Granada Reports Correspondent Ann O'Connor

The people of Prescot are celebrating a renewal in their community as the long-anticipated Shakespeare North Playhouse opens for the very first time.

Despite being one of the most deprived areas in England, the theatre could be transformational in fighting high unemployment that has blighted the town in recent years.

It is also hoped the playhouse - which is a replica of London's Cockpit theatre - could inspire local young people to become the next playwrights of the future.

The build took over two years, with a cost of nearly £40 million Credit: ITV News

For students at The Prescot School, this valuable resource around the corner will animate the Shakespeare texts they study.

Their school dates back to the days when Shakespeare was associated with Knowsley's Lord Derby, who was patron of the original Elizabethan theatre that once stood in the town.

Nicola Traverse, Head of English at The Prescot School, said: "It very much feels that Shakespeare is reaching out to our pupils from the past."

Local leaders hope that pupils will be enthused by seeing Shakespeare performed live. Credit: ITV News

Cllr Maggie Harvey, Deputy Leader of Knowsley Council, said: "This is going to be a marvellous opportunity to raise their aspirations, to get engaged and enthused about what's going on and I'm sure inevitably, there'll be a knock on effect."

This has already happened in Liverpool. The Tate art gallery breathed new life into the city - bringing 650,000 visitors a year.

But 30 years ago, many doubted it would change much at the once derelict and drained Albert Dock.

The Tate Liverpool brings around £20 million to the area but many doubted its success 30 years ago when the Albert Dock was transformed. Credit: ITV News

Jemima Pyne, Head of Audiences at the Tate Liverpool, said: "It's opening the door to different ways of thinking.

"You can see things that you wouldn't see in other places so it changes the way you might see the world.

"It might change the way you think about other parts of the world. It might change the way you think about the people you live and work with.

"I think Prescot are so lucky because some of that will happen there."

Three decades on, the gallery puts £20 million into the economy, proving the pulling power of culture.

Inside the new theatre. Credit: Andrew Brooks

The streets around the new theatre in Prescot are already feeling the benefits in their community.

Dozens of skilled workers came to the Merseyside town in the two-year construction - many of them apprentices.

Michael Hughes, who was the site manager, started off as an apprentice over 10 years ago.

Speaking in the outdoor performance area funded by the Ken Dodd foundation, Michael added: "It's revitalised the area. We've had 20-odd apprentices.

"Joinery, scaffolders, painting and decorating - it's brought a lot of work for the younger people to come in and learn a trade."

The owner of the Bard bar, Jay Orford, said: "It's very rare that I work a shift where someone hasn't come in and asked about the theatre.

"It's built up a lot of excitement and that's grown and grown."

Celebrations will be taking place across the weekend - 15 to 17 July - for the opening of the theatre - and you can find out how to get involved here.

Listen to the entertainment, Unscripted.