St Ives Theatre, home to Kidz R Us, has received its first grant payment of £109,000 from the St Ives Town Deal Fund, as part of a £1.5m project to refurbish and extend the venue.

Kidz R Us

Planning permission for the project was granted in January 2023, with work on the first phase – the roof and façade of the converted Wesleyan chapel – beginning later the same month.

Led by Shaun Rothwell and a team from Rothwell Historical Restoration, this phase was completed at the beginning of April, enabling the theatre to stage its summer programme. Work on the second phase of the project, which is supported by funding from the Town Deal, is currently due to begin in early January.

Formed by Phil Barnett in 1994 to encourage young people to get involved in the performing arts and support their development and the wider community, Kidz R Us now works with around 100 children, teenagers, and young adults a year. During the past 29 years they have staged more than 1,500 performances and won numerous awards.

“As well as saving a historic building, our project will help to develop the existing theatre into a leading tourist attraction for the town, lengthening the season with more performances, daytime workshops, and outreach programmes for schools,” said Phil.

“It will also provide a facility for touring theatrical companies, improve the visitor experience, and support the further expansion of theatre opportunities for local children and young people. This will help to provide more permanent jobs and help us to introduce young performers and young audiences to the performing arts.”

Gareth Jones, vice-chair of the St Ives Town Deal Board, said: “This fantastic project will see this cultural asset reconfigured and upgraded to provide an extended auditorium and new café/bar and reception area, and help the long-term sustainability of the charity.”

Nine projects in St Ives have been approved to share £19.9m from the government’s Town Deal. These include plans to create a low-carbon transport system, support local business and jobs, and develop new skills and supply chains, as well as provide new and transformed housing and community assets.

Of these six projects — St Ives Community Orchard and Nature Reserve, Leach Pottery, St Ives Guildhall, Housing and Rugby Club relocation, St Ives Enterprise Grants scheme, and St Ives Theatre — have now received their first grant
payments from the fund.