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A former church in Bangor will be transformed into a £3.2 million purpose-built creative hub for children and young people.

The new centre will “give children and young people equal access to the creative arts to inspire them to flourish and reach their potential.”

Young people theatre specialists Frân Wen announced the plans today, to create a new centre in the former St Mary’s Church on Garth Road. The theatre production company’s new home which will be known as “Nyth” (Nest) and will include rehearsal, workshop and small-scale performing spaces which will be used for a range of creative projects.

Frân Wen, who also announced this week the appointment of a new Artistic Director, Gethin Evans, hopes to bring a new lease of life to this important local heritage building and bring it back into use as a home for the company and a community asset which will contribute to the regeneration and culture of the region.

Irfon Jones, independent chairman of the Frân Wen board, said he wanted arts for young people to be “more accessible and relevant” as he revealed plans for the new development. He said: “The concept of Nyth is based on collaboration and will allow Frân Wen to flourish artistically and develop new partnerships in order to promote the transformative power of the arts in areas such as health and wellbeing and creative learning.”

Established in 1984 and currently based in Menai Bridge, Frân Wen delivers a participatory programme and theatre productions through the medium of Welsh, across North Wales and beyond. The new home will provide a central and convenient location for young people across North West Wales.

“The arts are a vital part of the fabric and vigor of our communities and at a time when spaces and opportunities for young people in particular are limited, we’re looking to create a safe place to nurture and support them at such a crucial time in their lives,” added Irfon.

The plans for the new home have been developed with young people from across North West Wales.

One of those involved in the process is Nia Hâf, she said: “This has been a truly collaborative process, and the vision for Nyth really does reflect the needs and aspirations of young people – it will give us a safe place where we can engage, create, play and experience everything that theatre and the creative arts can offer.”

The new hub is expected to act as an incubator for young and emerging
creatives in North Wales.

“Nyth will allow us to continue to deliver high quality arts activities and inspire the next generation of creative and enterprising young people. Giving young artists a platform to develop and share their work is a key part of the vision.” said Nia Jones, Frân Wen’s Executive Director.

“At a time of growing economic pressure, this development will contribute to the sustainability of Frân Wen and will enable us to deliver an ambitious artistic programme to a wider and more diverse audience.”

Having purchased the site, the next stage for Frân Wen is inviting architects to respond to the vision and develop plans to transform the old church.

“We’re challenging architects to develop innovative and bold ideas to restore and remodel the former church into a unique and contemporary building that delivers on our requirements,” added Nia Jones.

Frân Wen will hold full public consultations as part of the forthcoming development phase.

“We’re looking forward to working with the wider community to create a hub that they can truly feel ownership of.”

The design and development stage has secured financial support from the Arts Council of Wales, Welsh Government’s Targeted Regeneration Investment Programme and the Architectural Heritage Fund.

Kath Davies, Director Investment and Funding Services, Arts Council of Wales said: “Arts Council of Wales are delighted to support the development of the arts with young people through the redevelopment of this historic building. The plans that Frân Wen have developed, to create a new £3.2 million purpose-built creative hub for children and young people in Bangor, are very exciting and we hope will transform their work and outreach.

“The key strategic goal of the Arts Council of Wales is to ensure that the arts are ‘for the benefit of all’ and the redevelopment of this building by Frân Wen is an obvious contribution to this goal.”

Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive of the Architectural Heritage Fund added: “We are impressed by Frân Wen’s vision for this historic building as well as their approach to achieve this. Engaging young people at this important design stage will no doubt bring fresh and creative ideas to the fore that will help realise the concept. We are delighted to support the project’s development which, in turn will reap multiple benefits: new lease of life for a vacant, historic building; add to Bangor’s cultural offer; help Frân Wen’s long-term sustainability; and improve young people’s access to the arts.”

The capital funding package will be confirmed during the development phase and it is expected that funding to realise the vision for Nyth will come from a combination of capital investment including Lottery, private investment, capital investment grants, donations and fundraising.

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Darby Higgins

News Editor 2018-19

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