The original Civic was built as a Public Hall by Charles Harvey in 1877. In 1962 the Hall became Barnsley Civic Theatre, a traditional proscenium arch Theatre seating 800 people and attracting some of the biggest names in Show business to the town. Big names like Charlie Williams and Ken Dodd all performed here regularly and the Theatre continued to entertain audiences until 1998.
Sadly due to increasing maintenance problems and financial difficulties the Theatre was forced to close and remained so for just over ten years.
In 2002, Barnsley MBC led a regeneration initiative called ‘Rethinking Barnsley’ engaging the community in an extensive and detailed consultation process to inform a new 25 year vision for the town.
Redevelopment of Barnsley Civic Theatre was identified as a priority from the consultation process and Barnsley MBC committed to including the site in the first phase of their 25 year plan. A number of options were considered for the site that was now in a derelict state and it was decided that a significant alteration and expansion project was the most viable way forward. This meant it would no longer just be a theatre but it would have mixed usage with a programme of artistic activity within it.
Barnsley MBC appointment architects Allan Todd to design the new building and secured a financial package to deliver the project that included support from Arts Council England, Yorkshire Forward, European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) as well as investment from Barnsley MBC themselves.
When Barnsley MBC undertook the project they encountered severe structural challenges that were putting the whole building in danger. In order to preserve the asset for generations to come the allocated refurbishment budget was spent to ensure the building became structurally sound. At that point the remodelled site and building was passed over in Trust to us (Barnsley Civic Enterprise Ltd) partially complete inside in order that it could begin to generate income.
We have had responsibility for the building since 2009 and it now includes 384 seat performance space, a design led gallery, modern office accommodation and business units and a range of spaces available for meetings, workshops, functions and events.
Since re-opening The Civic, Barnsley has secured NPO status from Arts Council England, developed a combined arts programme catering for a range of tastes and interests and supported a wealth of creative businesses and projects to develop and thrive.