Wigan theatre and music venue forced to partially shut after structural fault found

A popular Wigan arts centre has been forced to close its theatre and music venue after a structural fault was found in the historic building.

The Old Courts, on Crawford Street, could face a moratorium on public events in two of its key spaces for several months, if not longer.

A fault was found in the concrete floor of the Grand Vault music venue and the seated theatre during routine maintenance work.

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The Old CourtsThe Old Courts
The Old Courts

As a precautionary measure, structural engineers have recommended that neither venue should be used until it has been repaired.

The cause of the fault has been identified as due to construction work carried out by an external contractor.

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Staff at The Old Courts have been working closely with insurers on the repair work and wider planning.

However, as it needs the support of heritage accredited architects, structural engineers and other professional services, it may be several months before the full programme of work required, and the timescale for reopening, is known.

Managing director Dave Jenkins said: “We have worked tirelessly to update all affected artists, hirers and ticket holders, and we are thankful for the overwhelming support we have received from those concerned. While we believe we have contacted everyone concerned, if an artist, hirer or ticket holder is unsure whether they are affected, I’d ask them to please get in touch with our team.

“We’d like to reassure our customers that this issue is isolated to the Grand Vault music venue and the seated theatre at The Old Courts, and does not affect the entirety of our building. This means we remain open and fully functioning in all other spaces on site including our Bailiff Bar, Court Room, café, community room and studio spaces.

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“As a responsible non-profit, we hold extremely comprehensive insurance on the building and the organisation, and whilst in the medium-term this will restrict our ability to operate fully in the space, our financial stability and resilience remains strong thanks to our reserves which have been built over many years of developing the space and the continued support of our funders. And of course, we will continue to welcome guests to all other areas of The Old Courts, so in this case, it’s very much business as usual.”

While the venues cannot be used, the team is looking at alternative locations for its events so it can continue bringing art and culture to the borough.

Its involvement in the work to regenerate Wigan Pier has provided a possible option.Artistic director Jonny Davenport said: “We love events, we love culture and we love welcoming people through our doors every week. As such, we have started to explore the possibility of expediting the works on Pier 4 at Wigan Pier. We’re all feeling very optimistic and are hoping we can soon host a wide range of events featuring world-class culture that we have dreamed about for so long.

“We’re working closely with Wigan Council and the developers Step Places, who have both been very supportive in this process and are doing everything they can to support us to make this happen a lot earlier than originally planned.”

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In July, The Old Courts will host a pop-up event in Pier 4 – a live and digital performance entitled Burnt Out In Biscuit Land. which forms part of a national tour that the organisation has co-produced with Touretteshero.

It will blend film, live performance and conversation as it aims to create somewhere for people to come together physically, and digitally, to celebrate disability culture, neurodiversity and difference.

This event will take place under a temporary event notice, but The Old Courts will ensure any investment into infrastructure will provide a more permanent solution to help with the expedition of works.

A large amount of work has already been carried out on the buildings at Wigan Pier, making them weather-proof, bringing original features back to life, replacing rotten timber and preparing them for fitting out.

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The new uses of the 55,000ft sq site include events spaces for corporate and community hire including weddings and parties, offices, an educational facility and pop-up space for retail, performance and market food hall events.

Mr Jenkins added: “Despite the current challenges relating to an isolated part of The Old Courts, we remain positive and are looking forward to focusing our efforts now on bringing Wigan Pier and the Royal Court Theatre back to life. Thank you to everyone who continues to support us and we look forward to welcoming our visitors into all other areas of The Old Courts.”

Work on Pier 2 and 3 – the old Orwell building and education centre – has been carried out behind the scenes over the last 12 months, with architectural drawings, public consultation, project planning and sourcing a contractor.

The final drawings and project planning stages are now nearing completion and although an opening date has yet to be confirmed, it is hoped it will be later this year.

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Contractors started with strip-out works in Pier 2 earlier this week.

Once complete, the venue will comprise a large tap room-style pub, artisan food and a flexible space suitable for weddings, conferences and culture events.

The Old Courts’ team is also working on transforming the Royal Court Theatre, with an emergency package of work already carried out to safeguard it for the future.

Over the next few months, design work will be done to plan the final stage of the scheme, followed by an intense fund-raising period.

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