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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 14:53 GMT 15:53 UK
Lottery bid for new Bard theatre
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare spent time at Knowsley Hall
A 20m bid for lottery funding to build a theatre dedicated to the Bard's links with Merseyside has been launched.

Shakespeare North wants to create an education and community arts complex, including an Elizabethan cockpit-style theatre, in Prescot, Knowsley.

Shakespeare spent time in the area, staying with the Stanley Family, the Earls of Derby, at Knowsley Hall.

School pupils and local residents are being invited to drama workshops to get to know Stratford's most famous son.

Participants in the "Our Will" project are being guided by TV and theatre director, David Thacker.

The Globe is in London and what it has done for tourism in London this could do for the North West
Sue Johnston

"We face a complex challenge to create somewhere that people will get on a plane and visit and that local people will see as the heart of their community," he said.

"The drama workshops will raise awareness of the work we're doing and hopefully generate enthusiasm and interest in Shakespeare's plays."

In addition to the heritage theatre, the development is planned to include community spaces, exhibitions, local archives, a cafe and space for a cinema and performances.

Early concept for Cockpit theatre
Designers have been working on early conepts for the theatre

Actress Sue Johnston, who grew up in Knowsley, is also supporting the campaign, believing it will help regenerate the area.

"The Globe is in London and what it has done for tourism in London this could do for the North West," she said.

"The first indoor theatre - medieval theatre - was in Prescot and so it (this project) is to bring that back to life really."

The project has been designed to celebrate the fact Prescot was the home of the only free-standing Elizabethan theatre outside London, Knowsley Council said.

The authority said local people would have an input into the scheme and its final design.

The project is dependent on a successful bid for 20m from the Big Lottery's Living Landmarks scheme.

Theatre group bids for cash

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