In 2002, Southampton City Council published its first cultural strategy; a frank analysis of where the city was, culturally, and a clear vision for where it wanted to be. It identified an organisational need for a new multi-purpose arts facility and to develop the city’s cultural infrastructure with the creation of a Cultural Quarter, which would form a key part in transforming Southampton, artistically, socially and economically.
In the following fourteen years, control of Southampton City Council has passed between all three major political parties and a coalition, but a cross-party working group supported by dedicated officers has worked to keep the project alive under threat both of losing partners’ or internal support. Southampton City Council has tirelessly championed Studio 144 and the Cultural Quarter, increasing its own investment whilst sustaining and building partnerships with private developer Grosvenor and Arts Council England.
Studio 144 will open in spring 2017, bringing two world-class arts organisations (Nuffield Theatres Southampton and the John Hansard Gallery) into the city centre for the first time, together with media and film specialists City Eye. Building on the work of programmes such as Art At The Heart, led by the council in partnership with cultural organisations within the city, the partners are working to ensure the impact of Studio 144 is felt across the entire city, including those who might ordinarily feel it is “not for them”.
An estimated 350,000 visitors are expected each year, stimulating a creative energy that will permeate the building, surrounding cultural quarter and adjacent central parks. Through innovative programmes and events, arts and culture will etend beyond the building into the locale, from outdoor performances and festivals to digital art projects and large-scale installations.