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New plans and fundraising announced for Gib National Theatre

Johnny Bugeja

New plans for a Gibraltar National Theatre have been announced, with the construction of the Government project set to be fundraised from philanthropists and investors due to the cost of Covid-19 to the public purse.

A foundation has been set up that will fundraise for the project, meaning it the construction will not be at the taxpayer’s expense.

Once completed the running costs will be paid by the Government, and so far all work on the project including design by the architect GCA has been pro-bono.

The Minister for Culture, Dr John Cortes, and Seamus Byrne CEO of Gibraltar Cultural Services announced the new plans for the project on Tuesday morning.

Dr Cortes said he does not rule out the Government contributing to the construction costs in the future when the economy is more stable.

The ‘Gibraltar National Theatre and Cultural Hub’ will be built on the current John Mackintosh Hall site will comprise of a national theatre for up to 1,000 seats and an orchestra pit for up to 32 musicians as well as other technical features.

“I feel passionate about this project, I think Gibraltar needs it and deserves it,” said Dr Cortes.

The Gibraltar National Theatre Foundation will have of a Board of Trustees, who include Peter Montegriffo, Kishin Alwani, Nyreen Llamas, Charles Sacarello, Keri Scott, Dale Cruz and Maxi Torres, and the Trust is chaired by the Minister for Culture with the Governor, Sir David Steele, as Patron.

The Foundation’s aim is to raise funds to make the project a reality and will seek support from philanthropists, companies and businesses, cultural entities and trusts, from Gibraltar and abroad.

Its first task will be to raise £500,000 to fund the next stages of the design process.

Dr Cortes said the total cost of the project including construction is not yet available.

“We don’t have a detailed cost because a lot of work needs to be done,” said Dr Cortes.

As the project would be put out to tender Dr Cortes was unwilling to say how much it is expected to cost, but said that it would be millions.

“We have already spoken to different firms who are interested in supporting it, some Gibraltar some international, we have spoken to philanthropical entities who are interested in supporting in,” said Dr Cortes.

“Obviously, no names revealed yet.”

He added that some stakeholders have said they would donate or hold events that would raise funds towards the development. In addition, Gibraltar Cultural Services will also partake in the fundraising.

Some funding from the foundation for the operating costs is also a possibility.

The new facility will include a new library with an extension to the children’s area and reference library as an example of the improvements to the facility, a multi-purpose arts studio with 200 retractable seats allowing the room to be used for a variety of reasons and a new exhibition area.

The facility will also have the ability to cater for live broadcasts, a terrace bar, a café and multipurpose area, meeting rooms and other ancillary spaces.

“A new theatre and cultural facility has been a long time coming for Gibraltar, a community which loves to perform and create and enjoy shows and local productions,” said Mr Byrne.

He added that the facility has been a long time coming for Gibraltar and will attract international touring companies as well as provide more direct access to young people on the Rock to live performances of shows and music.

“A new National Theatre and Cultural Hub is a symbol and statement of a mature community that invests in the Arts, [and is] aware of its benefits and value,” said Mr Byrne.

Dr Cortes said the project was very important for Gibraltar’s community.

“Gibraltar is extremely rich in talent in all the arts, be it the visual arts, music the other performing arts and yet unlike sports and I have every support for the sporting community and I like sports it doesn’t have the type of facilities that I think the community deserves,” said Dr Cortes.

“Despite the fact that there are thousands of young people involved in dance, music not just in schools but in the various academies, dance schools and so on. And yet we do not have a proper theatre in Gibraltar.”

He said it was in the Government’s manifesto and for several reasons it had not happened yet, he recognised that there were similar launches of a national theatre project, but said that none of the other projects had gone as far as the present one has.

Also, at the project launch was Christian Revagliatte from GCA Architects.

“We are all thrilled to be working on a project like this of this calibre on a building that has been very important to all of us,” he said.

Two team members from Theatre, Acoustic and Digital Consultancy service Charcoalblue flew in from the UK for the launch.

Rich Garfield a theatre consultant with the firm said he was hugely excited to be working on the project and fully engage with it.

“GCA have been doing an amazing job through extensive research to get to the scheme that we see today,” he said.

“We have a huge amount to do to get it to construction ready but all of our designers have either come from a performance or technical background.”

His colleague and fellow theatre consultant Alex Wardle said this a great project to start working on from this point.

“The huge amount of work from GCA shows what a huge scale of building can be accommodated on this site and there is a lot more to do in how we do certain things and we arrange the spaces,” he said.

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