Restoration takes centre stage at the Grand Opera House thanks to National Lottery support
Northern Ireland’s iconic Grand Opera House has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards an extensive project that will see the restoration of its matchless auditorium, together with the Theatre’s front of house areas.
The Grand Opera House Trust has been given a grant of £242,700 to develop its restoration plans, which will be then assessed by the Heritage Lottery Fund for a further £4,560,000 award. The restoration project, which will cost a total of £11 million, is due to begin in January 2020 ahead of the Theatre’s 125th anniversary later that year.
The interior of the Grand Opera House was last restored in 1980 when the Theatre reopened after it was saved from demolition. As well as extensive restoration works in the original Frank Matcham building, which opened on 23 December 1895, a permanent visitor exhibition will be created to showcase the colourful history of Northern Ireland’s Premier Theatre.
Ian Wilson, chief executive of the Grand Opera House, said:
“There are very few theatres in the UK and Ireland that can match the opulence of the Grand Opera House’s auditorium. Designed by Frank Matcham, the most prolific theatre architect of the Victorian era, the Theatre has been entertaining generations of theatregoers for 123 years.”
“The restoration of the auditorium and supporting public spaces represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to return the auditorium to its former grandeur and acknowledges the Grand Opera House’s vibrant contribution to Northern Ireland’s cultural life, and to the economy of Belfast. Thanks to the National Lottery, this funding will help us to protect, conserve and enhance the heritage of the Grand Opera House and share its unique and colourful history through improved community and visitor engagement. We look forward to sharing the full details of the restoration project in due course.”
The news of the 2020 project follows the completion of restoration works to the exterior of the original Frank Matcham building, completed in December 2017, which was funded by the Grand Opera House Trust.
Nearly 300,000 people visited the Grand Opera House in 2017, with a further 8,000 engaging with the Theatre through its award-winning creative learning and community engagement programme.