A portable performance space for Winchester district

Press Release: 15/01/2013

Winchester City Council is considering building a mobile performance stage that can be used anywhere in the district for open-air performances by theatre companies, dance groups, bands or other entertainments.

The space would be available for use by community groups, performers and events organisers throughout the district’s market towns and villages. It would also be a lasting reminder of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, reflecting the many community celebrations which filled the summer of 2012.

The Cabinet committee will consider a report on 16 January to look at the proposal.

Winchester’s historic street scenes and architectural backdrops provide memorable settings for many open-air events across the district. During the year, residents and visitors come in their thousands to enjoy seasonal processions, street theatre, folk dance, markets, the Winchester Cathedral Christmas Market and ice rink and military parades – among other occasions – which take place in our town and village centres. In 2012, we saw our green spaces and our historic frontages used to provide venues for a wide range of celebrations, from very local street parties to the Olympic Torch Relay which drew a crowd of around 30,000 to the centre of Winchester.

What has become very clear, however, is that the district lacks informal spaces which provide cover and visibility for performances, for speakers, or even small, group-based activities such as workshops. Winchester city has no traditional outdoor performance space, unlike other British towns, and this new space would help to reinforce local pride in the district’s long tradition of public art as part of its historic street scenes, as well as its growing reputation as a creative centre in the South.

Cllr Keith Wood, Leader of Winchester City Council, said

I would be delighted to see a portable event space open up the opportunity for communities across the Winchester district to host and enjoy performances that would otherwise not be possible. Recent work at the new housing development in West of Waterlooville for a similar event pod has demonstrated that there is public support for this type of creative space.

The Outer Close of the Cathedral has long been associated with important community events and the Cathedral authorities are keen for this to be enhanced further by providing an occasional home for the event space when it is not in use elsewhere.

If the report is approved the Council will invite artists, designers and crafts makers to submit proposals for a bespoke Winchester district event space. It is hoped that the new facility would be available for use in summer 2013.