Breaking ground for the arts

Building work has started on The Squire Performing Arts Centre, a new arts venue for the city at Nottingham Girls’ High School

Eight years in design and development, Nottingham Girls’ High School’s Squire Performing Arts Centre (The SPACe) is a £9 million facility planned to be a new resource for its students and the wider Nottingham community. School alumnae Dame Stella Rimington and Rosemary Squire OBE visited the school for the ground-breaking event to mark the start of works, along with construction partners Balfour Beatty.

The Girls’ Day School Trust (GDST) has invested £7.5 million in the development. Nottingham Girls’ High School raised the further £1.5 million in a campaign led by a dedicated development board, alumnae, governors and parents.

“Community outreach is a cornerstone of activity in schools throughout the Girls’ Day School Trust,” said Helen Fraser, CEO of the GDST. “The SPACe has been a triumph for Nottingham Girls’ High School and the team has really pioneered this project from the very beginning with unwavering passion and clarity of vision. The benefits of the centre will be far reaching and everyone at the GDST is proud to be supporting such a fantastic project and to see it come to fruition.”

The SPACe was named after Rosemary Squire, chair of The SPACe’s Development Board. Rosemary is co-founder and joint CEO of the Ambassador Theatre Group Ltd. Fellow alumnae Jenny Farr MBE and Dame Stella Rimington, former director of MI5, are also involved in the project. Dame Stella is a member of the development board and patron of The SPACe and Jenny will have a rehearsal room named after her.

Nottingham ‘s Sir Harry Djanogly has lent his support to the development. The SPACe’s main auditorium will be named in honour of his wife, Lady Carol Djanogly. Support from The Garfield Weston Foundation will be recognised with the naming of The SPACe’s 75-seat studio theatre.

The performing arts centre will be available for use by community groups, arts organisations, schools and businesses beyond school hours. It has been designed to widen access to the arts and for developing community-led projects. Nottingham’s schools and local dance, music and theatre groups will have access to space for teaching, rehearsal and performance.

Sue Gorham, head of Nottingham Girls’ High School, said: “It’s been wonderful to have the involvement and support of our alumnae on this project. Rosemary is a real inspiration and a true ambassador for the arts – just what we dreamed of for The SPACe. We want to raise the ambitions and aspirations of our future performing artists and provide them with the facilities to develop their talent fully. Our entire school community has put their heart and soul in to this project. Work starting on its development is a huge milestone for us and for the city, and marks the culmination of almost eight years of hard work, planning and fundraising. We’d like to thank everyone who has played a part and helped us realise our ambition – to genuinely share resources across the community. In recent years we’ve really focused on developing our outreach work and fostering strong partnerships with local schools, arts organisations and community groups, and our ultimate goal is that The SPACe will make a real difference to the people of Nottingham.”

Speaking on site, Rosemary said: “To have this wonderful modern performing arts facility named after my family is a special honour and privilege. My heart is still very much in Nottingham. It is my childhood home and where my passion for live theatre began. In a city that has faced many challenges, the arts are a great unifying force for good with a vibrant local dance, music and theatre scene and high levels of participation and engagement. The key challenge for arts groups has been to find high-quality and affordable space for teaching, rehearsal and performance to raise aspirations and deliver enjoyable audience experiences. We hope that The SPACe will fulfil this need and provide years of fantastic opportunities for young people within the community.’

The SPACe will feature a flexible 345-seat performance space, orchestra pit and large floor lift to provide multi-purpose use, music rehearsal and theory rooms, dressing rooms, ballet barres, professional lighting, control rooms with professional mixing desks and multi-use acoustic design for spoken word and musical performances. 

As well as performance facilities The SPACe will be used to give Nottingham Girls’ High School students the opportunity to gain hands-on experience, learning the skills of professional theatre technicians such as lighting, sound recording, box office and back stage.

Dame Stella Rimington said: “The school gave me a sound education but it also taught me the skills needed to perform successfully in public, from which came the self-confidence which has carried me on through my career. The SPACe will provide the opportunity for a new generation of girls to learn the same skills in a modern environment.”

Mike Reade, Midlands delivery unit managing director for Balfour Beatty, said: “On this state-of-the-art development BIM technology was used to ensure we deliver a sustainable building, to a tight programme in a live working environment. As part of our commitment to becoming the first UK company to spend a billion pounds with small and medium businesses in a single year, we look forward to recruiting as many local supply chain partners as possible for this project.”

Suzy Hunt, project architect at Nottingham-based Marsh Grochowski, which designed The SPACe, said: “It’s been fantastic to work on such a remarkable building – one that I’m sure will become an important venue for the city’s arts community, as well providing a much needed facility for the school. The team at Nottingham Girls’ High School had a very clear view of what they wanted to achieve with The SPACe and what it could provide for their students and the wider community. We have been pleased to work with them in bringing these ideas to fruition in the finished building design.”

www.nottinghamgirlshigh.gdst.net

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