Wiltshire

'Ambitious' new Swindon cultural centre plan unveiled

Wyvern Theatre Image copyright Google
Image caption The council said the Wyvern Theatre, which opened in 1971, will reach the end of its life by 2027

An "ambitious" plan to build a new arts and cultural centre in Swindon has been unveiled by the local authority.

Swindon Borough Council wants to replace the ageing Wyvern Theatre with a larger building and utilise its car park for a new museum and art gallery.

The council said the plan could be partly funded by selling its civic offices site in nearby Euclid Street.

Last year the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) rejected a bid for funding to build a new museum and art gallery.

Dale Heenan, the council's cabinet member for the town centre, described the plan as "ambitious and realistic" and said it would "remove the need to apply for millions of pounds in grant funding".

He said: "This new larger theatre would attract higher profile events and performers and include sufficient space to be a permanent home for our art collections and artefacts that will be financially sustainable."

The council said the Wyvern Theatre, which opened in 1971, will need "significant investment and refurbishment over the coming years as it is likely to reach the end of its life by 2027".

Image copyright Swindon Museum and Art Gallery Trust
Image caption A previous proposal for a new museum and art gallery in Swindon was rejected last year

A detailed redevelopment plan is being funded with £250,000 from the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), with the aim of regenerating the area around the existing theatre in order to "enhance the cultural and community offering", the council said.

The proposed new art gallery would house the town's collection of British 20th Century modern art, which includes works by Lucian Freud, Henry Moore, LS Lowry and Graham Sutherland.

The collections are currently located at the Swindon Museum and Art Gallery on Bath Road in Old Town.

Mr Heenan said: "By taking a fresh look at what is best for our collections and artefacts, for local residents, for staff and for the council, I believe this new approach is one that all local residents and politicians can enthusiastically get behind."

The proposal will be debated at a council cabinet meeting later this month.

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