Over 70 pubs, theatres and museums rescued by government package

UK Government announces £25 million of levelling up funding to save cherished places like pubs, theatres and museums through its Community Ownership Fund

Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young (left) went to St Mary's Church in Gateshead to mark its new funding for preservation works from the Community Ownership Fund

  • Successful community projects across the UK will receive up to £2 million for the first time, with three heritage theatres winning the top awards
  • Funding will ensure local people continue to reap the benefits of their valued community assets, preserving them for future generations

Museums, pubs, parks and cinemas across the country will be kept alive by a £25 million rescue package announced today (22/12/23).

Successful bidders will be given a share of the Community Ownership Fund – a funding pot rescuing community places that form the beating heart of a local community.

More than 70 treasured buildings across the UK will be saved, protecting important community spaces that mean so much to local people. £2 million will be granted to individual projects for the first time ever, with three historic theatres set to benefit from significant funding in this round.

Just over £2 million will go to the historic Wolverhampton Grand Theatre so it can buy a neighbouring 1800s building and turn it into an adjoining venue. This will allow the theatre - which just turned 129 years old - more space to host creative and performing arts activities.

Adrian Jackson, CEO and Artistic Director of the Wolverhampton Grand Theatre said:

"Wolverhampton Grand Theatre is committed to supporting and empowering our cherished community, therefore the grant from the Community Ownership Fund will allow us to continue to enhance the cultural and creative enrichment within the City.

"The theatre has been developing major creative expansion plans for the past six years and these will now finally become a reality. I wish to express my sincere gratitude to the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities for recognising the significant impact our work will have on the local community and for this exciting new chapter."

Another £2 million will help secure the long-term future of the King’s Theatre in Edinburgh, one of Scotland’s most historic and significant theatres. The heritage building will be extended to improve its disability access. A new community hub will also allow the theatre to host more activities like song-writing and singing, story-telling, language-cafes, relaxed performances and volunteering.

In another win for theatres, over £1 million will restore the historic Jacobs Wells Baths building in Bristol, to bring its live dance and theatre performances to life again. The Grade II Listed building will also provide space for other community activities like jobs fairs, flea markets, dance and fitness classes, youth support and targeted arts and heritage projects that bring young and old people together.

Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove said:

"Investing in communities improves lives – whether that’s rebuilding a community centre, rescuing historic pubs and theatres or upgrading sports facilities used by families every day.

"These are unique and cherished places, valued by local people of all ages, and we know how much they mean to communities. The Community Ownership Fund is about restoring pride in the places people call home and I’m delighted to be funding these projects."

The latest round of the Community Ownership Fund will also be supporting:

  • 26 community centres and village halls;
  • 14 creative buildings including museums, theatres, cinemas, music venues and art galleries;
  • 12 sports and leisure clubs;
  • 3 commercial buildings for vital community shops, including a post office in rural Derbyshire;
  • 8 community pubs; and
  • 4 parks and green spaces.

Minister for Levelling Up Jacob Young said:

"We’ve had brilliant bids from every corner of the UK and I’m delighted we’re supporting an extra 72 projects with almost £25 million of levelling up funding going directly to community groups.

"We know this funding has the power to bring about meaningful change to local people; protecting local spaces, preserving historic buildings, and transforming communities."

Scottish projects in this round will be supported with £8 million of funding, with a further £1.4 million for Northern Ireland and almost £440,000 for Wales. So far, the Community Ownership Fund has awarded a total £13.6 million for 43 projects in Scotland; £5.5 million for 24 projects in Northern Ireland and £4.2 million for 19 projects in Wales.

 In England, the latest funding round will support:

  • 4 projects worth £1.2 million in the North West – including £360,000 so the community in Ashton can buy and restore their Golden Lion pub
  • 3 projects worth almost £600,000 in the North East – including over £273,000 to preserve the medieval St Mary’s Church in Gateshead, so it can host more community events
  • 8 projects worth £2.3 million in Yorkshire and the Humber - including £240,000 to restore Charlotte Brontë’s birthplace in Bradford and boost local tourism
  • 6 projects worth almost £2 million in the East Midlands – including £700,000 to transform Loughborough’s 1930s Generator Hall into an arts and culture hub for the community
  • 5 projects worth £3 million in the West Midlands – including £2 million for the historic Wolverhampton Grand Theatre
  • 6 projects worth £1.6 million in the East of England – including £300,000 to turn a three-acre site into a new community park with a play area and outdoor gym in Canvey Island

The Levelling Up Minister Jacob Young visited two Community Ownership Fund projects in Gateshead this week (20/12/23). One of them included the Fighting All Cancers Together Family Community Centre which supports people diagnosed with cancer. The building recently finished renovation works using £300,000 from the last round of the Community Ownership Fund. The minister also visited the heritage St Mary’s Church which has just been awarded over £273,000 for energy efficient works, so it can continue to host its community.

The next funding window of the Community Ownership Fund is now open for bids and will close on 31 January 2024. Projects are being urged to apply for up to £2 million.

Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
Jacob Young MP
The Rt Hon Michael Gove MP