Theatre Porto (formerly Action Transport Theatre) opens its transformed building: a state-of-the-art theatre and new cultural centre for, by, and with children and young people.

On 10 August 2022, the doors of the new theatre and cultural centre in Whitby Park, Ellesmere Port will open after a £2.8M development, funded by Cheshire West and Chester Council and Arts Council England.

The new venue will be the only specialist, purpose-built theatre and cultural centre for children and young people in Cheshire and one of a small number across England.

The first of the public openings this August marks a new era for the company under its new name Theatre Porto, which was decided on following consultation with local young people, based on the ideas of child-centredness, place and playfulness.

Stacey, who grew up in Ellesmere Port, and who worked with the theatre as a young person, sums up what this new theatre means: “It's about it being local, It's about community. It's so nice for the people of Ellesmere port to be able to own something and say, ‘this is really good and its ours.”

NEW! This contemporary performance space and cultural centre now houses: a state-of-the-art 150-seat flexible auditorium for performances and film screenings; rehearsal rooms; workshop rooms; a temporary gallery, spaces for artists and a new café with an outdoor terrace. It has the highest quality technical facilities in sound, lighting and includes specialist equipment to broadcast National Theatre Live screenings. There is also a 300-seat amphitheatre in Whitby Park open all year round, and where Theatre Porto will host its’ Summer Programme of outdoor events, FREE for everyone to enjoy.

Free opening events are running from 10th to 20th August. A special extravaganza weekend on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 August, will include outdoor shows, walk-about performances, and special events alongside the ‘Once Upon a Time…’ art installation and adventure trail, all FREE to enjoy.

Councillor Louise Gittins, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council said: “I am so excited that the wait is over, and the transformed Whitby Hall is ready to welcome audiences and performers again. I’ve been following the work and I know how important this will be for the young people of Ellesmere Port and across the borough.

This is far more than an investment in a building, it’s an investment in our young people, the arts and culture. This new cultural building will make its mark on young lives for many years to come. It is also the start of many more plans for Ellesmere Port over the next few years”.

The new build transformation was designed by the Manchester studio of London-based award-winning architects Bennetts Associates who designed Storyhouse, a flagship venue for arts and culture in Chester.

Adrian Lonsdale, Associate Director, Bennetts Associates says: “We have been delighted to be involved with transforming Whitby Hall into a new and exciting cultural hub in the heart of Whitby Park. The historic house has been restored with contemporary theatre facilities added. This will secure the use of the building for generations to come and provide amenities for the whole community.’

The main contractor was EQUANS who specialise in low-carbon construction, refurbishment, and energy systems.  

Alyson Seddon, Head of Education and Public Buildings at EQUANS, said: ‘This new cultural venue is vital to the local community, I’m looking forward to seeing it getting the use it deserves.”

The capital programme was one of the recent winners at the North West Regional Construction Awards 2022, winning in the category for Integration and Collaboration. The venue will help establish Ellesmere Port as a great place for families to visit, live, work and play whilst being an unprecedented opportunity for children and young people. 

Nina Hajiyianni, Artistic Director of Theatre Porto says: “Theatre Porto co-create and present the highest quality theatre experiences for families, young audiences, and participants. We provide a welcoming and accessible space for all children and young people, to tap into their creativity and potential. Our mission is to champion their ideas and creativity and at the same time, create opportunities for adults to rediscover their sense of curiosity and playfulness”.

The company has been a producer of original theatre and wide-ranging youth and community work for over 35 years. Founded in 1986 as Action Transport Theatre, the company has a strong track-record, transforming the lives of local children, young people, and wider communities.

The focus on making imaginative, and authentic professional theatre has established the company as one of the leading performing arts companies in England,for, by and with’ children and young people, reaching thousands of participants and audience members each year.

Keep in touch by joining our mailing list and look out for our fundraising schemes, including our ambitious campaign to raise £50,000 for our inclusive engagement programme. The initial Crowdfunder campaign to raise the first £5,000 ends on 3 August 2022. Play your part in supporting the new generation of young theatre-makers and creative-thinkers, all developing skills for life... www.crowdfunder.co.uk/p/inclusive-theatre-for-children-young-people

For further information / interviews / images please contact:

Lesa Dryburgh, Freelance Communications & PR, post@stopthepigeon.co.uk  |  07977 900481