Carmarthenshire County Council – Town Centre Regeneration Award Winner
Ffwrnes Theatre, Llanelli
|Project Name||Ffwrnes Theatre|
|Project Location||Eastgate cultural quarter, Llanelli|
|Contract Period||101 weeks|
|Project Start Date (on site)||29/11/2010|
|Type of Work||New build|
|QS/Cost Consultants||Franklin & Andrews|
|Clerk of Works||CCC|
|Structural Engineer||Nicholson Jones|
|Electrical Engineer||McCann and Partners|
|Mechanical Engineer||McCann and Partners|
|Planning Supervisor||Lawray Architects|
|Main Contractor||TRJ Ltd (Betws)|
|Building Control||Carmarthenshire County Council|
Carmarthenshire County Council has successfully delivered an innovative and forward-thinking theatre and arts centre in the heart of Llanelli’s regenerated cultural quarter. Working within budget, and with significant community benefits, the theatre was the first to be built west of Cardiff in 25 years, and presented considerable challenges – notwithstanding the public reaction who held great affection for the former theatre building.
Through innovation and sustainable project delivery, the theatre building has won hearts and minds. It has been accepted and become loved by townsfolk, and the building itself has become a local landmark. It’s enduring design and environmental features makes it one of the most exciting buildings in Carmarthenshire, and indeed west Wales.
The demolition and clearing of a prominent Llanelli town centre site set the scene for the creation of a 21st century theatre in the heart of South Wales. Ffwrnes was built as part of the town’s £60million cultural regeneration, becoming the first of its kind in West Wales for a quarter of a century. This state-of-the art theatre has taken centre-stage as a cultural landmark of this vibrant town, hosting theatrical productions, drama classes, arts workshops, community projects and conferencing.
Ffwrnes is a pivotal part of a wider picture – the £60million investment of Llanelli Town Centre. Llanelli had suffered years of decline, struggling to cope with the economic downturn, and the rise of internet and out-of-town shopping. Coupled with a lack of cultural amenities, there was little to attract people to spend time in the town centre. But the tide turned when Carmarthenshire County Council’s innovative policies and dynamic regeneration team attracted Welsh Assembly and European Regional Development Funding.
In 2011, the town centre started fighting back. After years of planning and clearing of crumbling buildings and wasteland, Llanelli’s major regeneration programme began to take shape – transforming not only the town’s look but its fortunes too. Five major projects were developed side-by-side, delivering a wide range of arts, entertainment, leisure and business opportunities.
The Ffwrnes theatre – a vibrant arts and social enterprise complex – was developed alongside the £6million refurbishment of the Grade 1 Llanelly House, one of the country’s oldest Georgian homes; the £3.8million refurbishment Llanelli Library; and a £25million new leisure, office and retail development called East Gate, with extensive town centre improvements of the town’s main shopping streets, including new canopies, lighting and shop frontages, and £1million bus station.
In planning and designing the theatre, there were a number of challenges to overcome. Ffwrnes was to be the first new theatre to be built in Wales for over 25 years, and replaced a well-loved, but well-worn theatre built in the 1930s that was no longer fit for purpose. The people of the town were excited about the new development, but with big shoes to fill, people were understandably sensitive about how it would look and feel. As such, extensive community consultation and user group workshops were carried out during design stage creating a sense of ownership. Even the naming of theatre was the result of a public competition.
The Ffwrnes is now a flagship building occupying a prominent position in the town’s regenerated cultural quarter gleaming with modern facilities, recreational areas and a real sense of community and belonging. As a creative cultural centre for the arts and community, Ffwrnes features a stunning auditorium, specially designed to accommodate a range of performances, events and conferences. Seating up to 500, the versatile space can be re-arranged to accommodate numerous configuration and stage-format as required. With an additional studio space, a modern Box Office, Front of House facilities, complimentary wifi, Café / Bar and technically advanced backstage facilities, the Ffwrnes will be one of the best technically equipped venues of its kind.
It incorporates Stiwdio Stepni the perfect complement to the Ffwrnes’ main auditorium. A theatre-space in its own right, the studio can accommodate classes, meetings for clubs & societies, small scale conferences, and film screenings. With a flexible 60-100 seating capacity, comprehensive lighting grid and sound system plus full blackout capability, Stiwdio Stepni can be easily transformed to meet the needs of different productions and events. Supporting the range of theatrical productions and conferencing facilities at Ffwrnes, the integrated Café Cwtch enjoys regular custom. Social enterprise units are also incorporated.