Bridgwater’s historic arts and cultural venues will benefit from £2.1million government investment following approval of the Bridgwater Town Deal business cases for Bridgwater Arts Centre, Bridgwater Town Hall Theatre and Engine Room 2.0.
These represent three of the eleven Bridgwater Town Deal projects, which together are set to bring £23.2million investment into the town.
The overall aim of the Bridgwater Town Deal is to help ‘level up’ the area and create a vibrant and welcoming town centre. This will be achieved by revitalising the social, cultural and economic offerings in town centre, as well as unlocking future growth by resolving traffic congestion and protecting the area from tidal flooding.
Bridgwater was chosen as one of 101 towns that would receive investment through the government’s Towns Fund scheme as part of its Levelling Up programme.
Chairman of the Bridgwater Town Deal Board, Paul Moore, said: “We are delighted that the government funding for the Cultural Venues projects has been approved and released. This is a significant step forward in the progress of these projects and is the result of a considerable amount of work over the last two years by the Town Deal Board, Sedgemoor District Council Officers and consulting teams.
“Now work can finally begin on these long-awaited projects. The Town Hall – home to many a Panto and Carnival concert – is getting a long overdue update and new facilities; the Engine Room is getting an extension to increase capacity for community media projects; and the Arts Centre will see improved facilities, making it more accessible and securing its future.
“Once completed, the venues will provide a real boost for Bridgwater. The improved facilities will benefit the people of this town for years to come, as well as bringing more people into the town centre. There is no question that this is a very exciting time for Bridgwater.”
The three Cultural Venues projects within the Bridgwater Town Deal are:
Bridgwater Arts Centre (£700,000)
Bridgwater Arts Centre operates as a registered charity and is the oldest established dedicated arts centre, funded by the Arts Council in 1946. Comprising a Grade I listed building, the project will remodel the internal space, improve accessibility, enhance the Theatre experience and open up flexible gallery, meeting and artist spaces on the upper floors.
Bridgwater Town Hall Theatre (£900,000)
Bridgwater Town Hall Theatre is a popular community venue and the main office for the Town Council, commanding a prominent position on the High Street. The building is Grade II listed with a long history in the governance and cultural life of Bridgwater. Significant work is required to upgrade the quality of the Theatre auditorium, seating and changing rooms/rehearsal facilities, and install an improved sound system including a LOOP system for those with hearing difficulties. The installation of a lift will further improve accessibility and bring unused vacant space back into use for the local community and social enterprises.
Engine Room 2.0 (£500,000)
The Engine Room is an accessible community media centre and home of Somerset Film & Video Ltd, a registered education charity since 2003. Also located on the High Street, it plays a significant role in the creative diversity and interest of Bridgwater town centre. Towns Fund investment will further improve the visitor experience by creating enhanced digital arts exhibition space, flexible production studios and community training spaces, including a new Digital Archive room celebrating the cultural identity and rich heritage of Bridgwater.
In addition, just over £2.9million match-funding has been committed to support these projects.
The next steps include creating technical designs of the proposed works and submitting detailed planning applications for each of the projects. All Town Deal funding must be spent by the end of March 2026, so many of the opportunities and benefits for Bridgwater will be realised within the next three years.
The £3.6billion Towns Fund is part of the government’s plan for levelling up the UK economy, aiming to drive the sustainable economic regeneration of towns and deliver long term economic and productivity growth.