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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 June, 2005, 09:04 GMT 10:04 UK
City theatre to get 12m rebuild
Liam Neeson
Ballymena-born star Liam Neeson got his start as an actor at the Lyric
Belfast is to get a new 12m theatre on the site of the existing Lyric Theatre, it has been announced.

Arts Minister David Hanson broke the news when he visited the riverside theatre to be briefed on plans for the redevelopment.

He said the multi-million pound investment would secure the future of the Lyric as a modern cultural and entertainment venue.

"This investment is great news for the arts in Belfast," he said.

He said the new larger two-story theatre has been designed to seat around 400 people and also house a 150 seater studio facility.

David Johnston, chairman of the Lyric's board of trustees, said they were delighted the government had endorsed their "vision" of the theatre being rebuilt on its "historic Ridgeway Street site".

"Rebuilding the Lyric is essential and this capital grant will bring great returns for the whole community," he added.

The theatre has been going for 50 years, but it opened on its current site at Ridgeway Street in the Stranmillis area of Belfast since 1968.


The minister said since then it had been Northern Ireland's only full-time producing theatre.

"It has provided opportunities for many wishing to pursue a career in the theatre and I am confident that it will continue to do so for many more years to come," Mr Hanson added.

The Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure is providing half the money for the new theatre.

The Arts Council for Northern Ireland is providing 2m and various trusts and Foundation are donating 750,000.

The arts have a vital role to play in the cultural, social and economic life of the city
David Hanson
Arts minister

The Lyric will have to find the balance - 3.25m.

Ballymena-born star Liam Neeson, who got his start as an actor at the Lyric, has already thrown his weight behind the campaign to raise money to replace the current theatre which he said was in a "very dilapidated condition".

Mr Hanson said the investment in larger and better facilities would allow the Lyric to expand its educational programmes through its outreach projects.

The minister said it was not just about supporting the arts in the city, but also contributing to the economic and social regeneration of the city.

"The arts have a vital role to play in the cultural, social and economic life of the city," he said.

Work on the building project is expected to begin during 2007, with the new theatre opening in 2009.

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