Wykeland Group, Freedom Festival Arts Trust and Hull 2017 join forces to announce stunning new Hull open-air venue

Regeneration company Wykeland Group, the organisers of Freedom Festival and Hull 2017 today (February 11) announced the creation of a stunning new venue ahead of the city’s year as UK City of Culture.

Plans for the new facility were revealed to representatives of the region’s cultural and artistic organisations and business community as Wykeland was announced as a Major Partner of Hull UK City of Culture 2017.

Hull-based Wykeland is investing £700,000 to create the new open-air performance space, named Stage @The Dock, in Hull’s Fruit Market cultural quarter and, as part of a unique partnership with Hull 2017, will create a space that is purpose-built for arts performances and events.

The 350-seat amphitheatre will be managed and operated by Freedom Festival Arts Trust, the organisation behind Hull’s premier arts and culture event, and will provide a unique new platform for artists to perform. It will be the only new permanent venue created in the city before Hull’s year as the nation’s capital of culture.

A grade two listed structure which dates back to 1842, the Central Dry Dock has been disused for 20 years. Creation of the venue – formed by a decked performance area and terraced seating – will breathe new life into the dry dock, turning it into a significant cultural and artistic asset for Hull and adding to the vibrancy of the Fruit Market.

The venue will overlook the River Hull and the Humber Estuary, providing an impressive new performance space against a dramatic waterfront backdrop. Stage @TheDock will be available for artists and organisations to hire and equip the venue as required for each production.

Redevelopment of the Central Dry Dock is due to be completed by this Easter, when organisations can begin booking the venue for performances this summer.

Stage @TheDock will be used during Freedom Festival in September and, potentially, other city festivals and events. Freedom Festival Arts Trust intends it will become a place where creative work can be developed and rehearsed in front of impromptu audiences of workers, local residents and passers-by during the day, before performances at night. Freedom Festival Arts Trust will also explore opportunities to use the multi-functional space for a broader programme of events.

The facility forms part of Wykeland’s £15m @TheDock development, which has the Centre for Digital Innovation (C4DI) tech hub as its centrepiece. When not in use, Stage @TheDock will be a high-quality public space for local workers, residents and visitors to enjoy, with spectacular views of the river, estuary and The Deep. The redevelopment of the Central Dry Dock will also bring environmental benefits, through the creation of reed beds within the basin, either side of the stage and spectator seating.

Wykeland Managing Director Dominic Gibbons said: “We believe passionately that physical, cultural and social regeneration go hand in hand and, together, create the conditions for truly sustainable development.

“Our expertise lies in physical regeneration to support economic and cultural development. We are not an arts organisation. That’s why, having invested in creating this asset for the city, and, as a long-standing sponsor of Freedom Festival, we are delighted to have forged a partnership with the Freedom Festival Arts Trust to ensure Stage @TheDock will be managed by a highly-credible pillar of Hull’s cultural community.

“We are also pleased to become a Major Partner of Hull 2017, whose expertise will be crucial to ensuring Stage @The Dock is fit for purpose for arts performances and events.

“The @TheDock development is transforming a long-neglected site into a thriving hub of business, innovation and creativity. Now this new venue will add culture and art to the mix. We believe it will be a major asset and opportunity for the city as a whole and make the Fruit Market a place where people love to live, work, visit and spend their leisure time.”

Freedom Festival Arts Trust said Stage @TheDock offered great potential for Hull to work together to establish a leading outdoor venue and boost the Fruit Market’s credentials as the city’s cultural and creative hub.

Mikey Martins, Chief Executive and Artistic Director, Freedom Festival Arts Trust, said: “The initial plans for the Central Dry Dock were for it to become a high-quality area of public realm. However, Wykeland saw its further potential and, working with us and with the Hull UK City of Culture 2017 team, it soon became apparent we could go beyond that to create a new artistic space that can have real impact.

“The venue will be a test bed in the first year or so and, as a blank canvas space, we are looking for arts organisations – local and from further afield – to really get behind the venue, use the amazing location to their advantage and help us make it a success.

“We will also be exploring opportunities to broaden the programme of events beyond performance to respond to the versatility of the space, and will be working to develop some imaginative ideas on how it can be utilised throughout the year. It’s a hugely exciting prospect – we’re looking forward to working at a local, regional and national level to realise the venue’s full potential.”

Hull UK City of Culture 2017 Chief Executive Martin Green said: “I am delighted to welcome Wykeland as a Major Corporate Partner and, as part of this, to see Hull 2017 playing a part in the creation of this wonderful new performance space.

“This is a fantastic example of cultural regeneration in action, demonstrating how the public and private sector can work together to create a really special venue that will be a key part of the legacy of 2017.”

The amphitheatre development is the latest evidence of Wykeland’s commitment to culture and the arts, including long-standing sponsorship of the Freedom Festival and being the first of the business “angels” who backed Hull’s bid to be UK City of Culture.

An artist’s impression of Stage @TheDock, developed by Wykeland Group, which will be only new permanent venue created in Hull before the city’s year as the nation’s capital of culture.