Swindon’s new Cultural Quarter planned in prime location

Plans to include a new theatre, dance centre, digital media and arts hub.

Exciting plans to rejuvenate the arts in Swindon could be given a huge boost next week when members of Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet decide on where to build a brand new Cultural Quarter.

Over the past 12 months, the Council has been working closely with key partners in Swindon’s arts, cultural and business sectors to develop a credible and deliverable plan to create a new Cultural Quarter to help revitalise the town centre and boost the town’s cultural offer.

The Council’s Cabinet will discuss a report next Wednesday (21 Oct) which proposes to relocate the Wyvern Theatre and build the Cultural Quarter on the derelict Kimmerfields site, which lies between the railway station and opposite Debenhams on Fleming Way. Kimmerfields will also be home to the new flagship Zurich office, the first major office development in Swindon town centre for 20 years.

The proposals seek to enhance the cultural experience in Swindon, while also acting as an opportunity to reshape and increase the number of visitors to the town centre.

This exercise has been funded by the Swindon and Wiltshire Local Enterprise Partnership (SWLEP), and has followed an established development process with input from professionals in the sector.

Built in the 1960s, the town’s Wyvern Theatre is reaching the end of its life and new cultural forms and audiences need new facilities in which to thrive. Engineering reports highlight that there is a need for over £20 million of refurbishments.

The plans for the Cultural Quarter are expected to come to fruition over the next 10 years and include, among other things, a new theatre, dance centre, digital media and arts hub and new facilities to display Swindon’s nationally significant art collection.

The whole development is expected to cost in the region of £80m. Most funding routes for cultural projects and capital infrastructure have been placed on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic, though the Council expects new schemes to be announced later this year and next. This work will ensure Swindon is well prepared for the next round of bids.

An economic impact assessment has concluded that the Cultural Quarter could add more than £35m a year to Swindon’s economy and could create as many as 1,200 jobs for the town.

The plans, if agreed at Cabinet next week, will be progressed through a partnership approach that brings together the town, the arts sector, diverse public and private sector stakeholders and funding bodies to develop and sustain a long-term cultural offer of internationally recognised scale and quality for all the people of Swindon.

Councillor Dale Heenan, Swindon Borough Council’s Cabinet Member for the Town Centre, Culture and Heritage, said: “The pieces of the jigsaw are slowly fitting together, with cranes and diggers now on site for the first new office development in 20 years, imminent decisions for £50 million of funding bids for the town centre, a refurbished Health Hydro, completion of the fantastic Carriage Works regeneration, new Hampton by Hilton and Premier Inn hotels and much more. Now is the time to present plans for a new Cultural Quarter and build on Swindon’s momentum to ensure that, by 2030, we will see a very different town centre.”