Thursday, 7 March 2013

Southport's Atkinson arts centre to reopen

The refurbishment of the Southport arts centre on Lord Street is now nearing completion. It has been three long years and the extended closure hasn't been helpful to the cultural life of the town, so let's hope all the time, effort and - most importantly - money has been well spent. It was because of this closure that the local CAMRA beer festival moved, first to the Scarisbrick Hotel and then to the St Johns Ambulance Hall in Wright Street, where it will held again this October. Many of us feared that, with the recession, the arts centre might not have been reopened at all and the building sold off.

It is to be renamed the Atkinson, although I suspect some people will still call it "the arts centre", mainly because they'll get bored of saying: "I'm going to see X at the Atkinson." "Where's that?" "It's the old arts centre."  I do recall that before it became Southport Arts Centre, it was called the Cambridge Hall, but the 'C' fell off and so it became Ambridge Hall, familiar to listeners of The Archers as the home of Lynda Snell. The Atkinson incorporates not just the arts centre, but also the library and art gallery.

When it reopens soon, it will present a variety of concerts from Fairport Convention  to Showaddywaddy. Also featured in the next few months will be: Spiers and BodenHeidi Talbot Kathryn Roberts and Sean LakemanCara Luft (duo)The Christians, and State of the Union (Brooks Williams & Boo Hewardine). The Atkinson will also be hosting the annual Southport Jazz Festival in May, although there will still be a range of fringe events, some of them free, around the town. I'll write about them closer to the time. As before, I'll be noting the musical events at the Atkinson that I consider relevant to this blog on my What's On page (link to the right, or here), or you can go on the Sefton Arts website.

It is good news that it is reopening at last, but I think it's important to realise that in the current financial mess that the banks and politicians (of all political persuasions) have left us in, the long-term future of the Atkinson cannot be regarded as definite. It really is a matter of use it or lose it.

P.S. I contacted Emma Lloyd at the Atkinson about the bar, and her reply included this encouraging news: "We are looking to bring in Southport Brewery where possible and cater for our patrons with a wide choice of good quality bottled beers."


  1. Clive Pownceby8 March 2013 at 07:55

    The 'Atky' as it will surely become known (!) has funding for 2 years - it will need to turn a profit or else Sefton Council will be faced with another crisis of conscience along the lines of the current thorny libraries question. Their programme is certainly exciting though I notice with interest the ticket pricing structure pitches a couple of artists who have appeared at the town's Folk Club in the past at over twice the admission cost that pertained at the Bothy - and the club didn't lose money on either occasion! Still 'Arts Centre' fees charged by artists are invariably higher and the public is also paying for the glitz and pizazz of the refurbishment but in these straightened times, one has to wonder whether advance bookings will be as healthy as the Atkinson would wish. I'd reckon that all is pinned on the largely middle-class, middle-aged market still having enough disposable income to support the venture and I sincerely wish the Atkinson well. Its success can only have favourable repercussions for the grass roots in shining a spotlight on us all - it's the music that matters after all and there's room underneath that umbrella for us all.
    As for real ale, this will not a regular feature of the bar but I'm told, will be made available for selected events - the Fairport following will no doubt be catered to then!

  2. Comparing a folk club with an arts centre really is like comparing chalk and cheese. A folk club has very few overheads other than artists' fees. An arts centre has in addition to pay for the heating, lighting, staff wages, VAT, insurance, business rates, publicity, and other general costs associated with a business in a big building. Apart from leaflets, the Bothy has, as far as I know, no such expenditure.

    Personally, I'm glad the arts centre's reopening, and think it's looking good.

  3. Clive Pownceby8 March 2013 at 18:51

    I too am delighted with the news of the forthcoming opening date, and pleased that all previous user groups and a wider horizon have been embraced in the consultation process. RedNev is rght - there is no comparison, my comments were perhaps a tad wry, and if there's any choice, can I pass on the chalk and opt for the cheese, please!?
    Good news from Emma on the beer front too - bottled beer had become a feature of the Arts Centre's latter days with draught on 'special' occasions. Onward, ever onward.


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