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New £16.5m arts centre in move for planning approval

Hollywood star Streep voiced her support

By Matthew McCreary

Belfast's ever-changing skyline could be set to shift once again if the latest designs for a new arts centre are given the green light.

A planning application has been lodged for the £16.5m Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) in the city's Cathedral Quarter, and those behind the project are hopeful that the building will be completed on schedule by early 2011.

When completed, the facility, which is being built as a successor to the Old Museum Arts Centre (OMAC), will house two theatres, a dance studio, rehearsal rooms, café and restaurant and a vast 1,000 square metre visual arts space.

"The MAC will be one year old by the time the London Olympics opening ceremony takes place, so that shows you just how quickly this is going to happen," said Anne McReynolds, project director for the MAC.

"We have a great design, our funding is almost fully in place - we are currently closing the remaining £1.5m gap through various fundraising events and through the support of the statutory bodies to whom we have applied for backing."

The centre has been designed by local architects firm Hackett+Hall following a massive competition which drew applications from around the world.

Fundraising for the MAC was given a huge boost in August when Hollywood legend Meryl Streep jetted in to Belfast to help publicise the project, which she described as "a cause for celebration".

"I'm proud to come to Belfast to celebrate this city's commitment to OMAC and its great work," she said.

Ms Streep - famous for roles in films such as Sophie's Choice, The Devil Wears Prada and the recent hit Lions for Lambs - spent an afternoon answering questions from members of the public and arts professionals at the OMAC.

The new MAC project is being undertaken with support from the Department for Culture Arts and Leisure, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department for Social Development.

Established in 1990, OMAC is currently situated in a Grade 1 listed building in College Square North in the centre of Belfast, and is well- known for staging groundbreaking and innovative drama and shows. OMAC ticket sales to its current 90-seat theatre have grown by 24% each year for the last four years, selling out more than 70% of its drama productions.

Belfast Telegraph


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