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Culture, Leisure & Tourism

Data collected on the cultural strategies of twelve major cities, including London, have recently been used to demonstrate that culture, leisure and tourism are as important as finance and trade as a source of employment, exports and tax revenue (World Cities Culture Report, 2012). The following case studies show that change and renewal are constantly needed to keep visitors returning, and when managed well these can simultaneously enhance the historic significance and provide a rewarding visitor experience.

Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre visitors sitting on a terrace
Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre visitors sitting on a terrace © University of Manchester

The Isla Gladstone Conservatory

The Grade II Isla Gladstone Conservatory was conceived in the 1870s by the philanthropic and far-sighted designers of Stanley Park who provided the inner-city population of North Liverpool with bandstand entertainment, fresh air and a place for healthy exercise. A century later, the conservatory was anything but healthy, having been reduced to a vandalised mess of rusty iron and broken glass, with weeds filling the beds where botanical rarities once grew for the education and delight of visitors.

Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund's Parks for People programme, the beautiful glass pavilion is now one of Liverpool's favourite party venues, much used for weddings and for pre-match hospitality by local football clubs (including Liverpool Football Club, which made a substantial financial contribution to the restoration). We acted for the Heritage Lottery Fund in advising on the historic aspects of the repair, using original parts and materials wherever possible and introducing modern services without changing existing structures or appearances.

'The restored Isla Gladstone Conservatory is a stunning landmark in north Liverpool, evoking the heyday of the Victorian Stanley Park within which it sits. Its modern-day facilities add a new dimension, acting as it does as a popular venue for weddings and other events on the doorstep of the city's two football stadia. All of this activity adds a further dimension to the heritage investment in the physical fabric, creating sustained jobs, business and social investment... a great heritage success for Anfield and the city at large.' - Stephen Corbett, Building Conservation Team Leader, Liverpool City Council -

DEVELOPER: Liverpool City Council
LEAD PARTNERS: Liverpool Football Club, Heritage Lottery Fund

View of the restored Isla Gladstone Conservatory.
The newly restored conservatory viewed from the front. Clearly visible are the steps to the main pavilion – which is a large glass and iron framed building. To the left and right of the steps can be seen the yellow lit windows of the café and other facilities in the basement. © The Isla Gladstone Conservatory

Jodrell Bank Observatory

Jodrell Bank is a supreme example of scientific and technical heritage, and is home to the Grade I listed Sir Bernard Lovell Telescope, the largest fully steerable radio telescope in the world at the time of its completion in 1957. This and the other radio telescopes, along with the original control buildings, have been attracting visitors to the Laboratory for 30 years, and the University of Manchester is naturally keen to foster this interest in radio astronomy and the history of science, and to inspire budding young scientists.

To do this, new facilities have been constructed as the base for an improved visitor experience, and for the use of staff organising events and learning activities. Designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley with advice from us, the Discovery Centre introduces a series of linked visitor and exhibition pavilions into Jodrell Bank in such a way as to reflect the functional and scientific character of the site. We are now working with the university and architects on the next phase of the site's development, to construct a headquarters building to accommodate research staff.

'Since our new visitor facilities opened in April 2011 we have seen a huge increase in visitor numbers. In our first year we had well over 100,000 visits and in our second we will see over 130,000. I am delighted at the way that these innovative spaces reflect and serve the live scientific research carried out at Jodrell Bank.' - Dr Teresa Anderson, Director of the Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre -

DEVELOPER: University of Manchester
ARCHITECT: Feilden Clegg Bradley

The visitor centre at Jodrell Bank Observatory plus the Lovell telescope dish.
The new visitor centre, which contains the ticket space, exhibition areas and the café, on the left of the picture. It disappears to the focal point of the image, which features the giant Lovell telescope dish pointing towards the sky. © Hufton + Crow

Chatham Historic Dockyard

The ethos of constructive conservation, which embraces positive change, has seen Chatham Historic Dockyard secure a sustainable future and attract new uses for a group of important Grade II and Grade II* naval buildings left at risk by the  Dockyard's closure in 1984. Today the dockyard is again contributing to the economy and vitality of the Medway towns as a vibrant site that adds £16m to the local economy annually and combines employment, educational, visitor and residential uses. This complex has become the thriving base for more than 100 small businesses, employing over 500 people as well as providing 115 residential properties. The restored accommodation of the former Joiners Shop now provides a range of small studios, workshops, office units and communal facilities for small and start-up businesses, particularly those in the arts, crafts and design sectors.

In addition, 160,000 visitors a year come to the 80-acre site to explore its museum galleries and historic warships and to take part in its lively programme of events and activities. Success tends to breed further success, demonstrated by the decision of the University of Kent to take on some of the more prominent buildings at Chatham for its expanding school of arts: training the next generation of skilled graduates to participate in the nation's fast-growing cultural and knowledge economy.

'Chatham Historic Dockyard demonstrates the benefit and impact that heritage can have at the heart of regeneration to give character and focus to a place, and that you cannot invent or create from nothing. True, it takes vision, an entrepreneurial spirit and a degree of risk taking as well as large scale public investment, but it also takes the expertise, empathy and commitment to partnership by organisations like English Heritage [now Historic England] to ensure that all the benefits of such an important historic site are recognised and realised.' - Bill Ferris, Chief Executive, Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust -

DEVELOPER: Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust

The National Treasures museum, housed in the converted Smithery building at Chatham Historic Dockyard
The National Treasures museum, housed in the converted Smithery building at Chatham Historic Dockyard © Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre

Elisabeth Scott's 1932 Royal Shakespeare Theatre was the first public building in England ever to be designed by a woman. Before embarking on a £112.8 million plan to transform this important and emblematic building, a Conservation Management Plan was compiled with our advice to analyse the building's history and distinguish between elements of the building of key significance and areas of lesser significance. This was vital to gaining support for the construction of an entirely new 1,000-seat theatre within the existing envelope. The historically significant Art Deco foyer has been retained and now houses a café, restaurant and bar, with temporary exhibitions. A new 36-metre high observation tower provides a bird's eye view over the town's rooftops and harks back to a tower of the 19th-century Shakespeare Memorial Theatre that stood nearby and was destroyed by fire in 1926.

Increasing the theatre's capacity has led to a 54 percent increase in turnover: in 2012, the Royal Shakespeare Company's income topped £50 million for the first time. Another major benefit of the project has been to open up a natural flow between the Royal Shakespeare Theatre and Stratford-upon-Avon itself, and this has greatly benefited nearby local business - the hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, cafés, shops and tourist attractions on which the town's economy thrives.

'English Heritage [now Historic England] helped us enormously with our Transformation project and we are extremely grateful to them for their strong and continuing support since we re-opened the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres. By working together they helped us to create a building that retained the 'ghosts' of the theatre, alongside a bold new 21st century intervention that has added a worthy element to the ongoing history of our buildings.' - Grug Davies, Royal Shakespeare Company -

DEVELOPER: Royal Shakespeare Company
ARCHITECT: Bennetts Associates
LEAD PARTNERS: Advantage West Midlands, Arts Council England

External image of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
External image of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. © Historic England/Steve Cole

Lyme Regis Marine Parade Shelters

Although the shelters along the seafront in Lyme Regis were not significant enough to be listed, they were deemed to be a very positive aspect of the town's Conservation Area. We responded to the Council's desire to update the beach shelters by identifying the significant nucleus of the group for retention and enabling the less significant elements to be rebuilt.

The renewed waterfront contributes to the town's tourism economy by combining the historic shelters that add so much character to the seafront along with new shelters, two new shops, a performance area, a market area and two new community rooms. The project has also improved the physical and visual links between the town, harbour, Lister and Langmoor Gardens and surrounding areas.

DEVELOPER: Lyme Regis Town Council
ARCHITECT: Heighway Field Associates
LEAD PARTNER:West Dorset District Council

The Marine Parade Shelters from Lyme Regis harbour
The Marine Parade Shelters from Lyme Regis harbour © Heighway Field Associates

The Monastery of St Francis

Edward Pugin built this large Neo-Gothic church and attached friary for the Franciscans who came to Manchester in 1861 to serve the local Catholic community. For 120 years the friary was the hub of Gorton's religious, social and cultural activity, home to three schools, a theatre group, brass band, choir, youth club and several successful football teams. The departure of the Franciscans in 1989 thus left a very large hole, but also a determination that the buildings should be saved and kept in community use.

We played a critical role in the rescue process, providing both grant aid and specialist advice to the Gorton Trust, who were convinced that the building had an economic future as a hub for concerts, education and training, community activities, corporate functions and weddings.

Future growth in activity and trading income now looks assured, as the Trust made a small profit of around £90,000 in 2012 for the first time in five years on a turnover of £1.4 million. Around 40,000 people are now visiting the monastery, 60 percent of whom are business visitors attending meetings, the remaining 40 percent being leisure visitors attending weddings, cultural events or private parties. The beneficial effect on the local economy is indicated by the fact that 65 percent of business visitors and 80 percent of leisure visitors stay overnight in paid accommodation in the area. The Trust has also created the equivalent of 35 new full time jobs.

Gorton Monastery won the Gold Award in the 'Best UK Unusual Venue category in the 2012 Meetings & Incentive Travel Industry' Awards, competing against London's 'Gherkin' building (30 St Mary Axe) and Peckforton Castle in Cheshire, among others. Paul Griffiths, Co-founder and Chairman of the Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust was presented with the Heritage Hero award by the Heritage Alliance in December 2012 in recognition of the work done by the volunteers and professionals who donated their time to Gorton Monastery.

DEVELOPER: The Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust
ARCHITECT: Austin-Smith: Lord
CONTRACTOR: William Anelay
LEAD PARTNERS: Heritage Lottery Fund, Architectural Heritage Fund, North West Development Agency, ERDF (European Regional Development Fund), New East Manchester

The interior of the nave of the restored Monastery of St Francis, Gorton, Manchester, looking towards the altar from the west end. The room is set for a function with numerous tables set with white table cloths, dinner services and lit by candles around the outer aisles and from chandeliers.
The interior of the nave of the restored monastery church building – looking towards the altar from the west end. The room is set for a function. © The Monastery

Clifton Lido

The beautiful Grade II* open air swimming pool, designed by Richard Shackleton Pope and dating back to 1850, was nearly lost when consent was given for the demolition of all but the front building and for the construction of new flats. When this project stalled, the site was sold to a local entrepreneur who sought advice from us on restoring the lido using historic materials and repair techniques. The result is that a derelict site is now back in use as a vibrant and economically successful commercial venture.

DEVELOPER: The Glass Boat Company Ltd
ARCHITECT: Marshall and Kendon Architects

Clifton Lido open air pool
Clifton Lido open air pool © Craig Auckland/Diane Auckland/ Liz Eve/fotohaus ltd

Margate Regeneration

Heritage and the arts have been successful in giving new life to seaside towns that have lost out to Mediterranean resorts with more reliable sunshine. In the case of Margate, building the Turner Contemporary gallery has been the catalyst in attracting a new generation of visitors to a town whose skies were described by Turner himself as 'the loveliest in all Europe'.

We have been supporting regeneration in Margate through partnership with Arts Council England in the MACH (Margate Art Creativity Heritage) project, which encourages members of the town's creative industries community to use empty and neglected historic buildings as work and project spaces. The idea is to foster a culture of creativity in Margate that will attract visitors all year round for the twin attractions of Turner Contemporary and the town's lively arts scene.

New businesses and cultural activity are blossoming in the historic buildings of the Old Town and the lower end of the High Street, where 35 new businesses have opened up since the gallery opened, while the vacancy rate has fallen significantly from over 24 percent to under 19 percent in 2011. All of this is providing new employment opportunities, supporting the local economy and contributing to a climate of confidence in Margate's creative and business communities.

LEAD PARTNERS: Thanet Regeneration Board,
Arts Council England, Thanet District Council

Restored traditional shop fronts line the streets of the beautiful Old Town area of Margate
Restored traditional shop fronts line the streets of the beautiful Old Town area of Margate © Thanet District Council

Kentish Town Baths

The restoration of the Grade II listed Kentish Town Baths was achieved with our working in partnership with Camden Council on a limited budget to save the best architectural features whilst creating new facilities within the areas whose character had been compromised by extensive 1960s refurbishment. By identifying an area of the site that could be reconfigured for residential accommodation, it has been possible to underwrite the future running and maintenance costs of the new leisure centre from rental income.

DEVELOPER: Camden Council
ARCHITECT: Roberts Limbrick Ltd
LEAD PARTNER: GLL (Greenwich Leisure Limited)

Kentish Town Baths
Kentish Town Baths © Roberts Limbrick Ltd
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