Derby’s Assembly Rooms to remain closed for 18 months following fire

The Assembly Rooms in Derby. Photo: Eamon Curry.
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Derby’s Assembly Rooms could be demolished and rebuilt following a fire on the roof of the adjoining car park five weeks ago.

The plant room – which housed the venue’s power, heating and air conditioning – was destroyed in the incident.

Now, the city council – which runs the Assembly Rooms – has said the venue will be closed for 18 months while a decision is made whether to refurbish the 1970s building or knock it down.

In the meantime the authority is trying to find alternative venues for shows that have had to be called off, including the annual pantomime Beauty and the Beast.

Chief executive Adam Wilkinson said: “The council is committed to a significant cultural facility in the city centre but due to the ongoing assessment of damage after the fire, it has become clear we cannot reopen the building as quickly as we would like.

“We are continuing to work through the various options open to us, based on either refurbishing or replacing the current building.”

Just after the fire the council said the venue would be closed for eight weeks. More than 40 shows including dates for Sarah Millican were called off.

Now scores more will have to be rescheduled or cancelled. Among them is Dawn French’s new show, 30 Million Minutes, which was to be the opening act of Derby Comedy Festival in June.

Other comedians whose performances have been affected include Jimmy Carr, Ross Noble and Dave Gorman. A six-night run of The Buddy Holly Story and five nights of the Franki Valli and the Four Seasons’ tribute show New Jersey Nights have also been cancelled.

The Queen Mother opened the Assembly Rooms in 1977 – the year Derby became a city.The building then cost £4.5 million.

Derby city council is currently building a £28m velodrome at Pride Park which will also be a 5,000-seat concert arena. But work is not expected to finish until November and it is due to open to the public in January 2015. Some shows could be staged there.