Why Prescot Is on the Up

By on Tuesday, May 29, 2018

They’re building a theatre in Prescot.

It will be an authentic replica of a cockpit design by Inigo Jones, the famed 17th-century architect. Its existence will hark back to the late Elizabethan Prescot Playhouse, the first free-standing theatre built outside London.

In an era when theatre was only for the elite, this innovation allowed ordinary people to experience the joy of live performance, as its successor will do four centuries later.

Surrounding it will be a state-of-the-art college and education centre, opening up the world of Shakespeare – who counted Prescot’s Lord Derby among his rich patrons – and Elizabethan theatre to people of all ages, from children to seniors. Liverpool John Moores University will offer a master’s degree on the site, specialising in Shakespearean acting technique. It will be the only programme of its kind in the UK.

The revelation that Prescot played a key role in English theatrical history has already attracted a theatre company to the town. MATE Productions brings together top-tier professional artists and performers with the local community to bring classic tales alive in the woodlands of Prescot’s Jacobean parish church. In recent years they’ve staged Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s DreamAs You Like It and The Tempest, and this year they’re donning pirate costumes to inject new energy into Robert Louis Stevenson’s swashbuckler Treasure Island.

So invested is MATE artistic director Gaynor La Rocca in the town, that she and her husband, Francesco La Rocca, have signed the lease on a coffee shop in the soon-to-be-redeveloped Market Place. The MATE Creative Cafe will combine great coffee and food with a host of artistic, creative and theatrical endeavours in the transformed community space.

The Prescot Festival, too, is dedicated to bringing arts and music to the people of Prescot. Now in its 14th year, the festival runs to 10 days and brings quality orchestras, swing bands, brass bands, choirs and more to hundreds of enthusiastic concert-goers at unrivalled prices.

The prospect of a renewed culture and entertainment scene in Prescot is expected to bring tourists flocking – and investors, too.

An announcement is expected within weeks concerning a town centre cinema. Plans are afoot for a boutique hotel opposite Prescot Rail Station. Chef and entrepreneur Gary Usher is about to run a 24-hour crowdfunder to open his sixth restaurant, Pinion, in the town centre. A new street food restaurant, Kingsmen 1685, is underway in the former Red Lion pub on Market Place. The Bard micropub just opened on High Street and is thriving.

Craft bakery Albion Bakehouse is about to upgrade to a stunning historic townhouse on Atherton Street (pictured), newly restored with a grant from the Townscape Heritage Initiative, a lottery-funded agency that has been quietly repairing and restoring some of Prescot’s most beautiful historic buildings since 2013.

We’ve felt the effects of government austerity in Prescot, and we’ve lost some things. But we are gaining a lot, too, and Prescot’s future hasn’t looked this promising for decades.

And that is why this story in Monday’s New York Times story tells only half the story.


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