As historically important as Buxton Opera House is, the 131-year-old building’s famous Paxton Suite had, as organisers put it, begun to look “tired and dated” by the 21st century.
Last February, a £2.5 million scheme to turn the space into one of the Peak District’s most impressive new venues was launched in earnest, culminating in a public open day last Saturday.
Renamed the Pavilion Arts Centre and run by the High Peak Theatre Trust and Borough Council, the main auditorium – originally known as the Entertainment Stage in 1889 – has been carefully restored. A circle gallery once hidden by a false ceiling installed in the 1970s has been revealed above the art deco styling of the entrance foyer.
"The restoration of the Pavilion Arts Centre has required substantial financial investment from the Council, but in the long-term this will save money," says Tony Kemp, High Peak’s Executive Councillor for Regeneration. "The building had some serious maintenance issues that could not be ignored.
"It is a vital component of the Pavilion Gardens and this project will assist us in driving forward our business recovery plan to make the complex profitable and reduce costs to the council taxpayer. It will enable High Peak to attract ever more new business into the Borough as a whole, increasing jobs and wealth for local people."
The arts side of the Pavilion makes as much sense as the business plan, offering support to Buxton Opera House’s popular annual programme and festival. "This is a wonderful new venue," says Andrew Aughton, the Chief Executive of the Opera House.
"We're delighted with the work that has been carried out and hope that many of the people who joined us on Saturday will return to enjoy the range of entertainment on offer in the coming months."
Ten Days, the official opening festival, runs until October 3 2010. Visit www.buxtonoperahouse.org.uk for full listings.