Pocklington Arts Centre announces auditorium improvements

Pocklington Arts Centre has today announced that it has received funding from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund to make significant accessibility improvements to the auditorium.

Funding will include an upgrade to the existing seating, with a new demountable seating system to be installed. The new seating system will not only improve comfort for visitors and offer an opportunity to flex the space to meet demand for different types of performance, but will also greatly improve access to wheelchair users, those with mobility limitations and will include the installation of handrails to offer better support when using the stairs to move around the auditorium.

The current seating configuration will remain unchanged so regular visitors will still be able to book their favourite seat position, however, the scheme allows for an improved usage of the back row area to accommodate up to four wheelchairs with designated companion spaces.

Previously, it has been challenging to be inclusive for wheelchair users / those with mobility restrictions to perform on the stage at Pocklington Arts Centre. The new plans will include the installation of a stair-lift to the back-stage area to make accessibility here much more adaptable. This is likely to be complete by mid-2024. 

Lynn Drury is a member of Pocklington Arts Centre’s Forgotten Voices community choir and has felt frustrated at being unable to easily access the stage as a performer alongside her fellow choir members: “I have been campaigning for accessibility improvements to make the performance area more inclusive for those of us who are restricted in getting to the stage due to every direction being reliant on stairs to get on and off. On a good day, I can be assisted, but on a bad day the extra physical effort required can leave me in pain for days. I am so looking forward to these improvements and know that many people in my position will benefit from this.” 

Pocklington Arts Centre is grateful to East Riding of Yorkshire Council, which administers the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, for recognising the significant impact this project will have on PAC’s community and its commitment to inclusivity and accessibility. 

20% match funding has been allocated from PAC’s reserve funds as a contribution to the overall scheme of works. This will include the replacement of carpeting, decoration and the installation of LED house lights to improve energy efficiency and light quality. 

Pocklington Town Council Mayor, Roly Cronshaw, said: “We support these improvements and look forward to seeing the results when the full scheme concludes by mid-2024. A lot of work has already been done to ensure a thorough procurement process and we are very grateful to Cllr Carden, a retired Quantity Surveyor, for her significant contribution to the management of the project”. 

The majority of the building work will commence in January 2024, with preparations for the work scheduled from Monday 18 December. 

Pocklington Arts Centre staff and volunteers recognise the positive impact these changes will have on the visitor experience, but also wish to respect the heritage of the existing seating. A bank of three seats will be retained and, where possible, other seats may be re-utilised elsewhere. It is anticipated that there may be around 180 seats available for collectors to purchase by donation – anyone interested should contact boxoffice@pocklingtonartscentre.co.uk. Any funds received through the sale or auction of these seats will be reinvested in the Arts Centre for ongoing maintenance and improvements. 

A number of seat plaques will be retained and a campaign to “sponsor a seat” is being launched on Friday 15 December, offering patrons the opportunity to have their name fixed to the seat for the planned unveiling during February 2024.