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Southampton Cultural Arts Quarter Press Conference Southampton City Council today unveiled their plans for a new Cultural Arts Complex that will ‘regenerate’ the city. The venture will include two new blocks and a major redevelopment of Above Bar. Arts consultant, Jill Low, who has been working on the plan for four years said: “It will be buzzing – a centre of activity. This is an exciting thing to do, and I only do things that I’m passionate about.” The project has a 14-year history, and suffered during the recession, when they lost their developer. Jill Low said: “We’re here through sheer tenacity; Southampton is really on the edge of regenerating itself, and this will be a real success.” Grosvenor is the developing partner. Team leader Jill explained, “Grosvenor are really practical and commercial developers.” The project has a £20 million budget overall, that has risen over the years. “It has taken longer and is costing a lot more, but this period in time is the positive one,” insisted Jill. “There will be a mix of arts in the centre of Southampton,” she added, as well as “connectivity” and “formality” amongst residents. The quarter will stretch from the Mayflower Theatre to the Sea City museum and will include the Guildhall, John Hansard Gallery, and a student gallery, with the Civic Centre at the heart. Ben White, the Communications Director at the City Council, said: “We are in a unique position in the south with the cruise ships. We are a gateway and we’re proud of that.” It isn’t just tourists who will benefit from the project, Ben said: “We are trying to cross-sell. This is something for Southampton.” Jill Low echoed this view: “On the whole,

Southampton residents are very positive and have a real commitment to wanting something to happen in the middle of the city.” Businesses will also profit. Jill revealed: “This is a master plan for the area, local businesses have told me how delighted they are and Southampton Solent University thinks it’s a really good thing.” The quarter is also aiming to boost jobs. The council is expecting 21 million visitors a year, as there are already 1 million people in the area, with 2,000 extra jobs. Jill added: “There is a huge potential for students to be involved in the project.” There will be a variety of activities available in the complex, and Jill was especially keen for schools and young people to benefit from the plans, she said: “This will be a great resource for them.” There are plans to have educational activities in the facilities. The area is designed to be very family friendly, as well as “bridging the gap from when the shops shut to the evening.” As well as “things spilling out of the arts centre into the square”, there will be a performing arts complex and an art gallery in the area. The performing arts centre will boast two auditoriums and dance studios, which will work flexibly to be a “hive of activity”. On the design of the building, Jill said: “It could look like a big airport lounge. We want an informal atmosphere in a very modern building.” With such an adaptable area, the council are hoping for “local people to make work” but also “national and international companies to use the space.” The nationally renowned John Hansard Gallery will be moving to the quarter, and Jill


is anticipating “making a contemporary art gallery really successful.” The gallery building will have windows as a feature. “We want people walking past to look in,” said Jill. “Next year, the Sea City launch is the big one,” enthused Jill. The company is marketing the arts complex as a whole, but also the individual areas to attract diversity. “The arts are something people are still buying into, this has got that unique feel to it. I think that some people have a different idea about culture, residents have been constantly asked about the work, and nobody is saying they don’t want it,” Jill added. With a “good long run-up” to the opening, and “big and creative” plans for the launch, the Spring 2015 date is looking likely. “I had no anxieties that it wouldn’t work; I always said: ‘we can do this, it will stack up’,” said Jill. Ben White added, “This has to be a commercial success. The core to this is that it’s got to make money.” Jill Low’s passion for the project was obvious, “This is a cosmopolitan area, I want it to look like other cities, where you can sit and watch the world go by. I want it to look special.”


Cultural Quarter Press Conference