Work to transform a town hall into a thriving cultural hub will begin this autumn.
Durham County Council is investing £1.5 million into refurbishing and redefining Bishop Auckland Town Hall, with an improved layout and modern facilities allowing for a more enticing programme of activities and events.
To allow the work to take place, the Market Place venue will close from Saturday 31 August until next Spring.
Alternative meeting places have already been secured for groups that meet in the hall and arrangements have been made to ensure residents can continue to access library services during the closure. This includes the creation of a temporary library at No.42, The Auckland Project’s multiuse space at the opposite side of the Market Place.
Earlier this year, the council’s Cabinet agreed to fund the refurbishment, which is expected to save money in the long run by making the Grade II listed building more sustainable. It is part of the wider regeneration of Bishop Auckland and will provide improved facilities for residents, while contributing to the town’s growing reputation as a cultural destination.
Improvements will include the creation of a new café, bar and contemporary art gallery space on the ground floor, as well as enhanced library facilities. The auditorium will also be revamped to include more comfortable seating, and the cinema will become fully digitised, allowing popular blockbusters to be shown as well as live screenings, theatrical productions, comedy nights and lectures.
The new gallery space will continue to provide a focal point for works by local artist Tom McGuinness and will also provide a permanent home for the Durham Miners’ Gala mural by Norman Cornish, currently on display in County Hall.
Cllr Joy Allen, Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism at Durham County Council, said: “By improving facilities and staging a wider variety of events, the new look Bishop Auckland Town Hall will provide enriching and inspirational experiences for local people of all ages.
“It will also attract people from outside of the area, boosting the profits of the venue and other town centre businesses, and complementing events such as Kynren and the multi-million-pound conservation of Auckland Castle.
“We would like to thank Bishop Auckland residents and businesses for their patience while the work takes place. We would also like to express our gratitude to The Auckland Project for allowing us to set up a pop-up library at No.42.”
Library facilities at No.42 will be open from Wednesday 4 September. Opening hours will be 10am to 5pm on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday. There will be no public computers at No.42, but PC access will be available at Coundon, Shildon, Woodhouse Close and Spennymoor Libraries, which are all accessible by public transport.
Woodhouse Close Library, in Bishop Auckland, will also operate extended opening hours during the closure. Opening hours will be: Monday 9.30am to 7pm, Tuesday 9.30am to 6pm, Thursday 9.30am to 5pm and 9.30am to 12.30pm on Saturday.
For more information about library services, including opening times and locations, visit www.durham.gov.uk/libraries