A Teesside theatre currently under refurbishment is to be the focus of a new wave of comedy shows coming to the area.
The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) has revealed in a press statement that it is planning to make a major move into comedy as it re-opens the historic North East venue, the Stockton Globe.
ATG, which already works with several well-known musical acts, is aiming to provide the Globe Theatre with household comedy names. The group has previously worked with comedians including Ricky Gervais, Eddie Izzard, Michael McIntyre, Reeves & Mortimer, Rhod Gilbert and Romesh Ranganathan, as well as acts from abroad such as Amy Schumer and RuPaul.
The Grade II-listed Stockton Globe originally opened in 1913. During its time as been both a theatre and a cinema, it has hosted variety shows and live comedy acts, including the late Ken Dodd. The theatre is perhaps best known for its connection to music, with notable acts including Cliff Richard and the Shadows, whose track Stars Fell on Stockton was inspired by their time there; and The Beatles, who played at the Globe on 22nd November 1963 - the day American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
The Globe stopped putting on live shows in the 1970s, and - after hosting bingo - it fell into disrepair in 1997.
It was first announced in 2011 that the venue was to be revived, with plans for it to become the largest venue between Newcastle and Leeds. However, the revamp has been the subject of local controversy due to the cost and the length of time it has taken. The BBC has reported that contractors have come across problems such as "unsupported walls, rotting timbers, a corroded drainage system and weaknesses in the roof structure".
Co-funded between the Heritage Lottery Fund and Stockton Council, the original budget was £4million, which the council provided £1m of. By 2017, the cost had risen to £15m, with the council pledging £10.5m. The council has now contributed £13.25m, with the Heritage Lottery Fun awarding £4.5m. While the intention was for the Globe to open in 2012, the delays mean that the venue will now open in 2020. This has led to some locals criticising the entire plan, especially as Teesside is one of the most economically depressed areas in the country. Stockton High Street, which the Globe is on, has several empty shops.
However ATG are confident they can make the venue work, promising to "bring the biggest names in comedy and music back to the venue in the first time in over 40 years."
A CGI image has been released of what the venue will look like when it's finished:
Talking further about the plans, ATG say: "The historic art deco building, due to reopen its doors in just over a year, is being transformed into a 3,000+ capacity venue with flexible auditorium for standing and seated events. The refurbishment will also see a smaller 250 capacity venue open in the adjoining building."
Adam Kenwright, Group Board Director of ATG, says: "We've been working with the council to tailor the Globe so that it is one of the best in the industry for hosting live music and comedy events.
"With over a year to go before doors open, ATG are already in discussions with household music and comedy acts so that we can bring these stars to the Tees Valley community and back onto the Globe's stage after having no live entertainment inside the venue for over 40 years."
Current comedy venues in Stockton-on-Tees include the ARC Arts Centre and the Georgian Theatre.
Those wanting to know more about the Stockton Globe launch plans can join a mailing list at stocktonglobe.co.uk