Derby City Council has announced it will be replacing the city venue Assembly Rooms venue with a new 3,000-capacity £44 million music and performance venue.
The plan to demolish and rebuild Derby’s Assembly Rooms was announced as Derby City Council confirmed their budget for the coming year and following a period of public consultation.. The council says the new music and performance venue, together with a new multi-storey car-park, will re-invigorate the local economy.
Derby’s Assembly Rooms, opened in 1977, is to be replaced with a new venue
It was the most popular option with the public in the public consultation with 43% making it their preferred choice. Martin Rawson, Deputy Leader of Derby City Council, says the new venue will be a big improvement to the city centre.
“It will be a fantastic venue, an iconic building for Derby. The purpose is to reinvigorate the market place bringing an active frontage back to this side of the Market Place. The new venue will also be able to hold conferences, an important gap. We are looking for it to be open to customers by 2023.”
A fire in the the car park in 2014 forced the Assembly Rooms to close
The Assembly Rooms has been closed after a fire in the venue’s plant room on top of the adjacent car park destroyed the air conditioning, lighting and heating services to the venue on March 14, 2014. Since them there has been much discussion and speculation around the future of the building. Derby City Council’s Conservative opposition have repeatedly called for the venue to be refurbished and reopened, while the council maintain that the building was approaching the end of its useful life at the time of the fire.
Around a thousand people gave their views in the public consultation which ended in December. 43% of those surveyed opted for the music and performance venue, 28% would like to see the existing building refurbished while 22% wanted the council to choose the more expensive lyric theatre option, which is closer to what the local theatre groups have been calling for. 7% wanted a hybrid option of the others.
The council’s preferred option ahead of the consultation, the music and performance venue will provide a like-for-like replacement for the old Assembly Rooms venue, although a little bigger and also able to host conferences.
Derby City Council have also announced that work will begin immediately in a bid to deliver the project in 2022, with planning submitted in 2019, followed by construction getting underway in 2020.
“This new venue is a game-changer for further investment that will help us build our economy for the benefit of all,” said Councillor Rawson. Responding to the opposition’s call to refurbish the existing building, Councillor Rawson added: “The old Assembly Rooms didn’t quite get it right. This is absolutely the right choice for Derby, it’s not a compromise. The 3,000 capacity is bigger than a lyric theatre would be. It’s very much about doing what’s best for Derby and the public consultation has said that the two things that people primarily want is music and comedy. Those are the two formats that sit best with the option we have chosen.”
Councillor Martin Rawson, Deputy Leader of Derby City Council
The next steps in the project involve procuring an operator, developing a design and finalising the business case. The project is to be fully-funded using an £8.6 million grant from D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership alongside borrowing funded by a 1% rise in Council Tax and the ongoing revenue produced by the building.
Derby’s Assembly Rooms has been held up as fine example of ‘brutalist’ architecture
The present Assembly Rooms building designed by Sir Hugh Casson and opened in 1977 by Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. The original building had been destroyed by fire in 1963, It seems that one reason for the lack of public affection for the current building is due to the trend for using concrete as a building material in the 1960s and 70s. The building has been hailed, in some quarters, as a fine example of the ‘brutalist’ architecture of the period.
A Strauss Gala, one of many dance shows at the Assembly Rooms
The Glenn Miller UK Orchestra at the Assembly Rooms
Despite its 1500 limited capacity, big names have appeared on its stage including, in the early days, Elton John. The Assembly Rooms has been a popular venue for music of all genres; folk, rock, jazz, classical and orchestral. Typical performances have ranged from dance shows and the Glenn Miller Orchestra to rock band the Manic Street Preachers, while pop sensations McFly played to a sell-out crowd in 2007. Later the same year Lesley Garrett celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of the Assembly Rooms by cutting a cake.
Pop sensations McFly played to a sell-out audience in 2007
Lesley Garrett celebrated the Assembly Rooms 30th anniversary but cutting a cake, then Mayor of Derby, Councillor Pauline Latham , looks on