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Buy a £2 light bulb: Colchester’s Mercury Theatre launches £1.7m fundraising bid

Will Quince and Matt Hancock at the launch of the fundraising campaign for Colchester's Mercury Theatre. Photo: Sally Parkinson Will Quince and Matt Hancock at the launch of the fundraising campaign for Colchester's Mercury Theatre. Photo: Sally Parkinson
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Members of the public are being called upon to sponsor items from a dressing room light bulb to technical equipment as part of a fundraising campaign launched by the Mercury Theatre in Colchester.

The campaign, launched in parliament, hopes to raise the final £1.7 million towards a major redevelopment that the venue claims will “reassert the theatre’s place at the heart of cultural life” in the town.

The £8.7 million project has already received financial support from Arts Council England, Essex County Council and Colchester Borough Council, totalling £7 million, however the theatre is appealing to the public to raise the remaining amount.

The project will overhaul the Mercury’s front of house areas as well as refitting its 500-seat auditorium, building new backstage facilities and making the building completely accessible.

The development, called Mercury Rising, will also see the theatre fitted with a dedicated learning and participation centre and rehearsal rooms for the first time.

The fundraising campaign hopes to secure the remaining money for the project by asking members of the public to donate via a crowdfunding tool on its new website. Donors can purchase items for the new spaces, ranging from a £2 dressing room light bulb to a £15,000 music system. Seats in the revamped auditorium can also be ‘adopted’ for £475.

Conservative MP Will Quince, who hosted the launch event in Westminster, said it was important to bring the Mercury’s campaign into parliament, “to showcase exactly what we’ve got in Colchester”.

“What we’ve got now in the regional theatre scene is not theatre starting in London and then ending up in the regions, it’s theatre starting in the regions, touring across the region and indeed coming into London,” he said.

He added: “There’s no question that the feelings and consideration around theatre and theatre in the regions is changing, largely because people have seen the economic value in it.”

“If you look at the impact that a theatre has on a local town, take the Mercury for example, for every £1 invested, it generates £4 for the local economy, so it’s not just about supporting theatre and the arts, it’s actually supporting local businesses and adding real vibrancy to a town.”

The new website was launched by culture minister Matt Hancock, who said the Mercury’s project was an example of the importance of ensuring that the creative and cultural success in Britain today spreads across the country and is accessible to everyone.

“That can’t be done without the thriving and growing regional theatre network,” he added.

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