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Mercury Rising Theatre, Colchester


Approval Status


Fully Approved

Delivery Status


LGF Project Delivered

Project Completion Date


Spring 2022

The project will enable the expansion and redevelopment of the Mercury Theatre, a significant regional cultural performance and training venue in Colchester, Essex. The redevelopment of the theatre and the surrounding area offers the opportunity to build on the organisation’s success, the continued growth of the creative industries in the County and the growing visitor economy in Colchester, Essex and the wider South East. The principal objectives of the scheme are to:

  • Create world class facilities for artists and audience alike improving the audience experience – thereby increasing future capacity and attracting more visitors
  • Provide a new hub housing 10 new creative businesses
  • Improve rehearsal and production facilities to support high quality production locally, regionally, and nationally
  • Increase the contribution to the creative economy including skills development, business support for SME’s in the sector and networking opportunities
  • Improve access for disabled people
  • Improve the public realm
  • Improve business sustainability
  • Open up new routes for digital presentation and creation
  • Create a safe and welcoming environment for Mercury staff and users

The Mercury Rising Scheme will upgrade and refurbish the following spaces at the Mercury: Main Theatre – increased capacity from 483 to 620 to allow for greater financial sustainability and the installation of new technical equipment and infrastructure to meet modern-day professional performance standards. Investment will address key health and safety issues within the space for artists and meet audience expectations for the future. Foyer (including new Bar and Catering Operation) – the current foyer is cramped, does not allow for day-time use or enable profitable ancillary sales through bar, catering or merchandise to be further developed. In particular, SELEP’s investment will support the following ‘new’ spaces to be built on site: Education and Training Room – this space will house the Mercury’s Learning and professional development workshops, seminars and meetings. There is no dedicated fully accessible learning space in Colchester at present. The space will allow the Mercury to expand their programme of community and education engagement, offering a gateway to learning, and work experience in the creative industries. Rehearsal Spaces (x2) – these professional standard rehearsal spaces will be available for professional use, teaching and community engagement. One space a professional dance studio. There are no similar spaces in North Essex of professional standard. Production Block – the production spaces (wardrobe, set construction workshop and associated making areas) housing and craft skills are at the heart of the Mercury’s operation. Importantly the re-developed spaces will be fitted to professional standard for use by the Mercury for its own productions alongside offering unique learning for apprenticeships, trainees and those on work experience. In addition, commercial producers, new theatre companies and artists will commission the space. There is no comparable professional standard space in North Essex and only one other in Essex (High House Production Park in Thurrock). Creative Businesses Office Accommodation – within the new production block, the Mercury will offer space for 10 new creative businesses. This addresses local demand (the Creative Business Centre in Queen Street currently has a waiting list of 25 companies). Each business will have access to all of the available facilities on site to meet clients, develop work and host launches, previews and new productions as required. These will be made available at affordable rates (when compared to similar workspace). The Mercury’s income from increased trading will meet on-going staffing and overheads.

Award of additional LGF funding

The LGF COVID-19 response fund was established to support those existing LGF projects which were experiencing a funding gap due to cost increases or loss of local funding sources as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. A new LGF project pipeline, consisting of existing LGF projects, was agreed by the Strategic Board in December 2020 and will be used as the basis for awarding all currently unallocated LGF funding.

This project was included on the new LGF project pipeline and the award of an additional £0.207m LGF was approved by Accountability Board Minutes 10 September 2021

The Board also agreed that LGF could be spent spent beyond 30 September 2021, as the project met the criteria for this spend. This was endorsed by the Strategic Board at its meeting in October 2021.

Capital Programme delivery update

Take a look at our update on the delivery of the Local Growth Fund (LGF) and Growing Places Fund (GPF) capital programmes.

SELEP Capital Investment Programme

£579m of investment to East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock

In total the SELEP Growth Deal with Government has brought £579m of investment to East Sussex, Essex, Kent, Medway, Southend and Thurrock. Over the lifetime of the Growth Deal (2015-2021) we aim to deliver 78,000 jobs and 29,000 homes across the SELEP area, with the Deal set to attract a further £960m of investment into the South East over the six year period.

Find out more here
Funding value: £1m
Total Project cost: £11.8m
Return to Capital Investment