Hall For Cornwall hands over keys to mark start of work on £20m redevelopment
As Hall For Cornwall formally handed over the keys to its building to mark the start of work on its exciting £20m redevelopment, 11 year old Maisie Crick summed up the feelings of people across Cornwall by telling the contractors Kier “Please look after our theatre”.
Maisie, who performed in the last Hall For Cornwall Christmas show, stole the hearts of guests with her heartfelt plea as she handed the keys to Chris Couch, Kier’s Area Manager for Cornwall, at the end of the special handover event. Accepting the keys, Chris Couch assured the youngster and assembled guests, including HFC Chair of Trustees Chris Pomfret; Bob Egerton, Cornwall Council’s Cabinet Member for Planning and Economy, HFC supporters and staff, that he would take great care of the building during its two year transformation.
This was an evening led by young people as members of the HFC Youth Theatre and Youth dance groups gave a series of stunning mini performances as guests were taken on a tour of the theatre. As HFC staff outlined the background to the project, one young person read a poem he had written about the secrets contained within the walls of the theatre, while others performed a choreographed dance to mark the end of an extraordinary era, and delivered a short piece of theatre highlighting some of the key moments of the past 20 years.
Thanking people for their support, Chris Pomfret said that the evening had been a very emotional one as HFC staff locked the gates to the existing building for the last time ahead of the redevelopment and the keys were formally handed to the building team.
“This is a key milestone in our journey to create a world class venue which will provide Cornwall with access to the very best performing arts to rival anywhere in the country, as well as creating jobs and boosting the local economy” he said.
“As we look to raise the curtain on our future, it only seems fitting to celebrate the spirit of all the audiences, performers, directors, writers and technicians who have made the magic happen over the last 20 years”.
Cornwall Council has provided some of the funding for the £20m project and Bob Egerton said he was looking forward to seeing the transformed building in two years’ time. “This project has been a long time in development and I am delighted to be here to mark the formal start of the works. This is the start of a race, rather than a sprint, but I have no doubt that the wait will be worth it – not only for Truro but for the whole of Cornwall. “
As well as having a rare opportunity to see behind the main stage, guests also visited the former Flourish café next door which will be brought back into the main building as part of the redevelopment. The space, which was previously the site of a police station, complete with cells, a fire station and a bank with the sturdy vault door still in place, will become a general hosting area in the new building.
Other highlights included a special performance by The Suitcase Singers of three songs commissioned by Hall For Cornwall to celebrate the achievements of three famous Cornish women. These included “Jenny Mopus”, a song which tells the true story of Jenny Davies, an 18th century ferrywoman who ferried people from the Roseland Peninsula to Truro and whose portrait hangs in the Royal Cornwall Museum; famous Cornish rower Anne Glanville, who famously led a team of female rowers who beat teams of male rowers from Cornwall
before repeating their achievement in France; and a song about Dolly Portreath, reported to be the last native Cornish speaker.
Once construction formally begins, HFC will work alongside Kier to organise a series of hard hat tours, open days and events which will encourage people from across Cornwall to visit Truro to see the progress of the redevelopment and enjoy other amenities offered by the city. Details of these dates, alongside information on how to book, will be released on Hall For Cornwall’s website.
HFC has worked closely with Truro BID, Kier and local businesses to create visuals for the hoardings surrounding the construction site which will act as a central focus of interest for the public by telling the story of the redevelopment alongside celebrating the building and Truro’s history and heritage visually. Local businesses in the immediate vicinity will be supported by the inclusion of orientation and ‘open for business’ messaging, as well as inclusion of a large Visit Truro map of the city for use by locals and visitors alike.
Research from other parts of the country which have carried out similar projects suggests that the refurbishment will deliver long lasting benefits to both Truro and the wider Cornish economy.
The completion of the project will provide capacity for an extra 300 seats in the new auditorium, attracting the very best productions to Cornwall. Whilst more people will be able to attend, the space will also offer greater flexibility of use for more intimate and experimental performances.
Plans are also being developed to increase the number of tourists visiting Truro by highlighting the history and heritage of the HFC building and the important role it plays within the City. A Heritage Lottery Funded project will include a series of heritage interpretation activities and events that will drive the daytime economy. The project also includes the development of a new ERDF & LEP funded creative business hub which will provide office and meeting spaces expected to attract up to 40 new small and medium sized creative businesses, generating around £15m for the local economy.
An economic impact study carried out by Oxford Economics concludes that the redevelopment of Hall For Cornwall will add £35.6 million to the Cornish economy by 2025/26 and create 165 jobs a year after it re-opens in 2020. This is in addition to the impact of the construction works which are predicted to contribute £7.8m to the local economy and create 106 jobs over the life of the project.
Although 90% of the £19.8m re-build target has been raised, HFC needs to raise a further £1.8m to turn its aspirations for a new theatre into reality. Over the coming months the organisation will be launching a series of initiatives for people to get involved and support the project. Details of these will be provided as they are confirmed.
HFC Youth Dance member wins coveted place at National Youth Dance Company
22 August 2018
Hall For Cornwall is celebrating the news that one of the members of HFC Youth Dance has been awarded a place at the National Youth Dance Company.
Hundreds of young dancers from across the country auditioned for just 30 available places at the prestigious national company so being offered a place is an amazing achievement for 17year old Ned Ratcliffe. Members of the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC) have the opportunity to work with nationally acclaimed choreographers and perform at leading dance venues before taking part in a final performance at the world famous Sadler’s Wells Theatre in July.
Ned, who lives near Helston, has been a member of HFC Youth Dance since the age of 11 and Head of Arts Development Helen Tiplady is thrilled at his success.
“I am so happy for Ned! He takes part in the full range of wonderful opportunities that are offered to him here in Cornwall, he’s part of loads of groups, All Boys Dance led by Rob Mennear, HFC Youth and Propeller, as well as listening to all his dance teachers at Truro College. We’ve had lots of talented dancers apply to be part of NYDC in the past and I am really chuffed that this year the choreographer has seen what he wanted in Ned.”
Dame Rosemary Squire, DBE, Joint Chair of the Board of the Hall For Cornwall Trust, added. “We are so proud of this young male dancer’s achievements and how hard he is working to realise his dream. It’s brilliant exposure to the industry and we are delighted for him – we can’t wait to see the finished piece. “
Currently studying for a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Dance at Truro College (equivalent to three A Levels) Ned now faces a busy 12 months juggling his college course with working with NYDC during half terms and holidays.
As the longest standing member of HFC Youth Dance, Ned will continue to attend the fortnightly Sunday sessions as well as working with Propeller Dance, a weekly dance training programme which focuses on technical skills led by Dance Republic 2, but fitting all this in with his other interests of music (he plays the double bass), surf life saving and sailing might prove a little too much – even for Ned!. He is also a talented actor and is a former member of the HFC Youth Theatre Company.
Not that Ned is at all worried – the 17 year old is looking forward to working with acclaimed choreographer Botis Seva, who is leading this year’s NYDC programme, and is confident that winning a coveted NYDC place will act as spring board to a career in contemporary dance.
“I was very excited when I heard that I had been given a place” he said. “Having applied to NYDC for the second time (I did not get in last year) my first audition took place at AMATA in Falmouth University when I applied to take part in an “experience workshop’ session with other young hopefuls. Four weeks later I was in London at the recall auditioning with 75 other dancers in front of Botis. “
Ned then had a stressful four week wait before receiving a phone call to say he had been awarded a place. “We were out when they first called and so I had to call them back to find out if I had been successful. It was great to be told I had a place – although there was so much cheering from the rest of the family I could hardly hear what the woman was saying.
Ned comes from a very talented and artistic family – Mum Melanie is a visual artist and 22 year old brother Gil has just completed an MA in Contemporary Dance at the Northern School, after receiving his first degree in Contemporary Dance from Trinity Laban. Gil was also a member of HFC Youth Dance and the whole family is full of praise for the support and encouragement the brothers have received, both from HFC and from other dance companies in Cornwall.
“When we first moved to Cornwall, Gil was just seven and there were almost no opportunities for boys to take part in dance “ said Melanie. “Gil was a very energetic child, always on the go, and so I was desperately trying to find things for him to do. I stumbled across an amazing dance company called “Tavaziva” , which was holding a workshop in Cornwall.
“Led by artistic director Bawren from Zimbawe , the workshop combined Contemporary and South African dance. I took Gil, then aged 8, .to the workshop and although Gil had never danced before, the director told me he had talent and said I needed to find somewhere in Cornwall for him to dance. Luckily I found Helen and Cornwall Youth Dance Company, later to become HFC Youth Dance and the rest, as they say is history. “
Years later Ned also attended one of Tavaziva’s workshop sessions – an experience he describes as one of the best things he has done in his life and which was a key factor in him choosing a career in dance rather than the theatre.
Melanie later discovered that Gil’s high levels of energy were a symptom of Tourette Syndrome, a neurological condition which causes a person to make involuntary sounds and movements called tics. Ned also shares the same condition and Melanie says that this has been a key factor in the importance of dance in both their lives.
So what next for Ned?
“I want to be a dancer” he says simply. His immediate ambition is to secure a place at one of the country’s three leading conservatoires (Trinity Laban, The Place, or The Northern School) to study contemporary dance and then to see what happens.
But whatever the future holds both Ned and Gil and their parents are immensely grateful for the support and encouragement they have received from Hall For Cornwall and the wider dance sector.
“We can’t thank Helen and HFC Youth Dance enough for helping us on the journey to achieving our dreams “.
HFC Youth Dance are auditioning for new recruits to the company on the 16th Sept - check HFC website for more details and call HFC box office to book a place!
Keeping Truro’s Town clock ticking
20 August 2018
Although Hall For Cornwall is now closed to the public, staff from the theatre are visiting the build-ing three times a week to wind the historic clock which has marked the passage of time with its chimes in the city for more than 100 years.
The current clock is a replacement for the one destroyed in November 1914 when a major fire swept through the municipal buildings, causing the clock tower to fall through the roof of the Council Chamber. Newspaper reports at the time suggest that the fire began in the clock tower, spreading quickly though the wooden structure and destroying the Council Chamber, committee room, muni-ment room and roof of the building, as well as the original clock which had been erected more than half a century earlier.
Although the furniture in the Council Chamber and many of the corridors and stairs were scorched by the fire and suffered water damage, most of the valuable paintings and portraits were saved, to-gether with the Mayoral robes and chain.
Following the fire, the wooden structure of the clock tower was replaced with a three storey building of steel and concrete, while retaining the granite façade. The clock itself was made to the design of Lord Grimthorpe, who designed Big Ben; with the four bells cast by John Taylor and Sons, a Loughborough based company who hung the Truro Cathedral bells, as well as casting the 17 tonne Great Paul, the largest bell in the country at that time.
Following the formal presentation of the new clock to the citizens of Truro in October 1915, it has remained in place keeping perfect time apart from a short period in the 1970’s when it was taken away to be refurbished while repairs were carried out to the clock tower.
Up to the closure of Hall For Cornwall at the beginning of June this year, winding the clock has been the responsibility of Alan Cocking, Truro City Council’s building facilitator. As well as winding the clock every day, including on bank holidays and during Christmas, during the past 12 years, Alan also had to manually adjust the clock twice a year to co incide with the start and end of British summertime.
“Putting the clock back involved stopping the entire clock mechanism for an hour” explained Alan. “The alternative would have meant winding through 23 hours. Putting the clock forward involved ad-justing a lever to make the clock run faster – this was much easier and only took about 10 minutes”.
Despite spending 12 years carefully winding the clock, maintenance and servicing had to be carried out by a specialist company – “I was only allowed to dust it every now and then” joked Alan. He is very proud that during all those 12 years the clock has never been out by more than 5 seconds, possibly because of the preciseness of the manually controlled mechanism. By contrast the chimes of the Cathedral clock, which has an electric mechanism and is serviced by the same company, can often be out by more than a few seconds.
The task of winding the clock has now fallen to four members of the Hall For Cornwall staff who take it in turns to visit the clock tower three times a week. The actual winding process involves turn-ing a series of handles which pull weights attached to cords and pulleys up from the second to the third floor of the tower – an incredibly physical task which can require two people to carry out. Once fully wound, the weights take around 72 hours to return back to their base when the whole process has to be repeated.
“We have all really enjoyed our clock winding duties” said Catherine Richards, one of HFC’s clock winding team. “Up in the rafters of the City Hall, you get to see the cathedral and streets of Truro from a completely different viewpoint. The clock itself is such an intricate and beautiful piece of machinery and it is amazing to think that it has been reliably ticking up in the tower for over a century.
“We take our winding responsibilities very seriously, to ensure that the clock keeps accurate time for the people of Truro, it really is a privilege to be part of the city’s living history.”
Three pianos, theatre props and a dance floor!
What do three pianos, armfuls of costumes and theatre props and a dance floor have in common?
The answer: they are all pieces of equipment loaned or donated to local organisations by Hall For Cornwall while the theatre is closed for its £19.8 million redevelopment project.
The theatre officially closed its doors to the public on 2 June following a spectacular last night performance by local band The People’s String Foundation. Since then HFC staff have been busy packing furnishings and technical equipment to go into storage so the keys can be formerly handed over to the contractor.
While a series of yard sales were held to give local businesses and the public the chance to buy items such as desks, theatre seats, crockery and stationery, HFC has also donated equipment to Cornwall based groups and organisations, including local theatre companies, churches and a secondary school.
“The closure of the theatre for our redevelopment project meant that we needed to find temporary homes for some of our equipment, including our pianos” said HFC Chief Executive and Creative Director Julien Boast. “I am delighted that we have been able to find homes for three instruments here in Cornwall and I am sure that their temporary owners will make good use of them”.
HFC’s Steinway piano has been loaned to St Mary’s Church in Penzance, part of the Penlee Cluster of churches in West Cornwall.
Although the Grade II* listed parish church is renowned for the quality of its traditional church music and plays host to a wide range of musical events throughout the year, its existing grand piano was not of sufficient quality to attract top pianists to play at the church. Determined to change this Musical Director Nigel Wicken worked with Tim Dean, former Head of Opera at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, who had recently moved to Penzance to live, and technical wizard and church member Chris Doggett, to persuade HFC to loan them its Steinway.
The persuasion proved successful and the piano, which arrived at the church at the end of June, has already been in use at concerts during both the Golowan and Penzance Lit festivals, and at a number of lunchtime and evening concerts.
“We are incredibly grateful to Hall For Cornwall for the temporary use of their Steinway” said Tim Dean. “We are looking at how to use it to attract even more diverse audiences to the church to a wide range of events over the next two years, and develop the church even further as a real focus for community'
A Yamaha upright Disklavier piano (which allows pianists to record and then play back their work) has been loaned to Mounts Bay Academy. Head of Music and Director of Performing Arts Claire Brown is delighted to have been entrusted with the instrument which, she says, will be used for performances on the school’s new permanent stage.
“We are thrilled Hall For Cornwall chose Mounts Bay Academy to provide a temporary home for one of their pianos” said Claire Brown. “As part of the expansion of the Performing Arts department, we are creating a new practice room and a new permanent stage. The piano will have pride of place on the new stage and will be used for performances by our most talented musicians.”
A Yamaha upright piano has also been loaned to St Ia, the parish church of St Ives. The church is thrilled with its new instrument and has lost no time in putting it to good use with a number of concerts already taking place since its arrival four weeks ago.
Another slightly more unusual piece of equipment which has found a new temporary home is HFC’s dance floor which is being looked after by James Wilton. James, one of the UK’s leading choreographers, is an HFC associate artist who has performed on the stage on numerous occasions with members of his company – James Wilton Dance.
Renowned for creating breathtakingly physical choreography, James has toured extensively both in the UK and internationally to critical acclaim, winning numerous awards along the way. The company are currently in rehearsals for their forthcoming production The Storm and James is very grateful to HFC for the loan of the dance floor.
“We will be using the floor for both rehearsals and performances” he said. “The space we are rehearsing in this summer doesn't have a floor so we are using it to rehearse for our ne workThe Storm and will then will be using it for our rural touring activities over the coming year.”.
No theatre production would be complete without costumes and props and a selection used by Hall For Cornwall’s resident companies have been donated to local drama groups.
HFC’s exciting and ambitious project to transform the interior of its Grade II* listed building into a modern cutting- edge venue is now moving into its construction phase. Once the site has been fully prepared and hoardings are in place, demolition will begin.
HFC is working closely with Cornwall Council, Truro BID, Truro City Council and its contractor to keep local people informed about the progress of the project and support businesses during the closure period.
Information is being provided through monthly newsletters and on the HFC website - hallforcornwall.co.uk – as well as via HFC’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram channels. There will also be open days and hard hat tours of the works to enable people to come in and see how things are going as well as a community roadshow tour of events and locations throughout Cornwall.
Although 90% of the £19.8m re-build target has been raised, the partners need to raise a further £1.8m to turn their aspirations for a new theatre a reality. Over the coming months HFC will be launching a series of initiatives for people to get involved and support the project. Details of these will be provided as they are confirmed.