One of the city’s most historic listed buildings has reopened following an impressive £7.2m refurbishment which took 18 months to complete.
The 130-year-old Crescent Arts Centre in Queen’s Quarter has been restored into a vibrant rehearsal, performance, exhibition and arts education space, while preserving one of the city's most revered historic venues.
Due to a lack of investment in the building, more than half of the structure had fallen into disrepair. Much of the old centre was not fit for purpose, but the new-look Crescent boasts state-of-the art facilities, comprising a multipurpose space with retractable theatre seating, a dance studio, galleries, workshop spaces, a photographic studio, and a cafe.
During the last 30 years, the centre has played a pivotal role in providing the local community with access to the arts, offering a diverse range of classes and workshops in many art forms.
At the official opening yesterday David Hill, Chair of the Crescent Arts Centre, said: “This is a momentous day for Belfast’s cultural heart.”
David Fletcher, project architect for Hamilton Architects, said: “We took particular care to maintain the integrity of the building, keeping as many original details as possible.”
Rosemary Kelly, chairman of the Arts Council, described the centre as the birthplace of modern community arts practice in Belfast.
She said: “Investment in the Crescent goes further than supporting the local arts. It’s also about contributing to the cultural, social and economic life of our towns and cities, encouraging more visitors to Northern Ireland and providing the facilities required for the best international companies to bring their performances to venues.”
To mark the return of the restored building, the Crescent will host an arts festival, entitled Crescent Overture which will run until Sunday.
Visitors will have the opportunity to absorb the stunning new surroundings with the option to try some of the 100 free ‘taster’ classes and workshops on offer.
Visitors Denise Smyth from Jordanstown and her friend Eileen Pollock were impressed by the new-look Crescent.
Denise said: “The building is just beautiful. It’s great to see somewhere in Belfast with so many things going on.”
Christine Dowling from the Belfast Set Dancing and Traditional Music Society said: “This has been a long time coming, it’s just fantastic.”
Petra Blomker, who works at the Crescent, said: “Those who remember the old building will know how run-down and cold it was. Preserving so much of the stonework has kept the flavour of the Crescent.
“The newness of some of the work isn’t clinical, it has that Crescent feel about it.
“The response from the public has been great. Everyone is welcome to come down and get involved.”
During the week-long event there will be everything from baby dance to cheerleading and puppetry to figure drawing.