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25 August 2023

Gosforth Civic Theatre opens its doors following a major YIF renovation

Gosforth Civil Theatre, one of the first youth projects funded by the Youth Investment Fund, has opened its doors again, following major refurbishments that have seen it transformed into a modern, accessible community-focussed venue for the people of Newcastle and beyond.  

Gosforth Civil Theatre (GCT) is part of Liberdade Development Community Trust, based in Newcastle, and has a bold ambition to raise everyone’s expectations about what people with learning disabilities can achieve. They use the arts and social enterprise as tools for change. They offer young people dance, drama and arts activities from their Gosforth Civic Theatre – an arts venue and cafe in Gosforth, Newcastle. It’s a truly inclusive space for performance, music, and events, at the heart of the community. Their ethos is all about empowerment, giving young people power. Bringing these young people into the heart of the community, and challenging preconceptions about people with learning disabilities. 

Gosforth Civil Theatre reopened on 25 August 2023, with a performance from stand-up poet, BBC radio regular Kate Fox, with her show ‘Bigger on the Inside.’  Special events continued over the bank holiday event, including giving visitors a taste of GCT’s improved Café Bar, where they can indulge in a brand-new menu served from its revamped kitchen and deli while taking in Curious Arts’ outdoor performance piece Wildflower from its freshly landscaped courtyard and community garden. 

£1.5 million (almost two thirds) of the funding for the renovation has come from the Youth Investment Fund. Other funders include Arts Council England, The Clothworkers Foundation, The Wolfson Foundation, The Foyle Foundation, and The National Lottery Community Fund. 

Rob Huggins, GCT’s Chief Executive, says:  

“Gosforth Civic Theatre is an amazing social enterprise; when you buy tickets to a performance, hire us to host your beautiful events, or visit us to enjoy our hospitality we use the money you spend to provide opportunities for young people with and without learning disabilities and autism. 

From our experience, if we told you the truth about why Gosforth Civic Theatre exists, you probably wouldn’t believe us; there is a group of people with learning disabilities who set up and run a theatre company called Liberdade (Lib-er-dar-jie). In 2012 they decided they wanted to open a theatre where everyone was welcome. They wanted to have jobs in their theatre and to provide the opportunities they’d had for other young people, and so that is what we did, and that’s how Gosforth Civic Theatre came to be. 

This journey to get to where we are makes GCT unique. Add to that a governance structure that empowers and gives a voice to both people with learning disabilities and young people, and you have a cultural building that can create real social change in a community. We think people can sense that when they come and visit us.” 


We hope all of our building users will be wowed by the many positive changes we’ve made to the space. Community venues are needed more than ever in these challenging times, and they have always been needed for people to gather and learn about each other; we want to get to know all our neighbours and welcome all communities at Gosforth Civic Theatre – everyone is welcome and everyone can call it home.

Rob Huggins
CEO for Gosforth Civic Theatre

Changes to the venue are significant; they include a new heating system, solar panels on the roof and insulation throughout to reduce the theatre’s environmental impact saving around 64 tonnes of carbon emissions per year. The venue’s foyer has been brightened thanks to the addition of a huge skylight that brings the outside into the building, while a theatre bar in the auditorium offers a stylish touch to events.  

As well as that, the theatrical infrastructure in the auditorium has been completely upgraded, creating one of the most flexible, accessible and energy efficient theatre spaces in the region.  A reconfigured backstage has allowed for an accessible dressing room, a shower room and changing areas for performers, while an expanded and redesigned cafe will be used to provide valuable work placement and training opportunities for young people with learning disabilities and autism. 

The new community studio, which will house a lot of the wellbeing and youth activities, is a great space for workshops, meetings and small parties and gatherings. The furniture throughout the building, including in the auditorium, has been updated along with the décor.


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