Darlington Civic Theatre has received a confirmed £4.5m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to transform and regenerate the Grade II Listed building to its former glory.

The grant forms a key part of the ambitious £11.7m project that will deliver a restored Edwardian theatre with 21st century facilities and expanded artistic programme. The theatre will now close at the end of May to allow work to begin and will reopen in the autumn of 2017 with a new name – Darlington Hippodrome.

The project will include the restoration of the distinctive exterior of the Theatre and the beautiful Edwardian auditorium; a modern new entrance and promenade gallery, celebrating its heritage; the creation of a stunning vaulted function room in the former water tower, as well as improved seating with more leg room and disabled access; including two lifts, providing access to all levels both front and back of house.

There will also be an increase in seats to 1,000, which together with improved back stage facilities for touring companies, will enable larger shows to be accommodated. A new education centre and improved public spaces will support a vibrant new range of daytime learning and engagement activities.

The remaining money needed for the project will be raised through a restoration ticket levy and a programme of fundraising, which includes applications to trusts and foundations, corporate sponsorship opportunities, as well as a seat naming campaign and other fundraising initiatives.

News of the HLF grant comes hot on the heels of a £1.5m grant awarded by Arts Council England (ACE) to Theatre Hullabaloo, in partnership with Darlington Borough Council, to support its £2.9m project to create a new flagship children’s theatre venue, The Hullaballoon, adjacent to the Civic. The new venue has been made possible in part by a commitment of £800,000 by Darlington Borough Council, and will include a 150 seat studio theatre, family café, creative play spaces plus rehearsal and office space for Theatre Hullabaloo. The Hullaballoon will deliver creative play installations, a wide range of creative opportunities and classes for families and it will be a focal point for creative education.

On opening in late autumn 2017, it will be managed through an extension of the Civic Theatre’s operations and will be available to community arts users when not serving its primary audience. Theatre Hullabaloo will also be carrying out fundraising activities to support its project.

Councillor Nick Wallis, Darlington Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for Leisure, said:

“This project represents the biggest investment in the theatre since it opened its doors in 1907. Together the two projects will see a total investment of £14.6m in the arts in Darlington to create a theatre quarter that will cater for generations of theatre lovers.

“We are delighted to have secured the support of HLF to enable this ambitious project to go ahead and look forward to working with our partners, and the people of Darlington to secure the future of the town’s much loved theatre and help create a wonderful new facility for our young people.”

Lynda Winstanley, Darlington Civic Theatre Director, added:

“I am very proud that the importance and value of the Theatre as a cultural and community asset has been recognised by the Heritage Lottery Fund and I’m very grateful to our audiences and supporters locally and nationally for their loyalty and support.”