Plans for the landmark redevelopment of Touchstones, the borough’s major arts and heritage venue have been approved by Rochdale Borough Council and work is due to commence this spring.
The project is funded by the Cultural Development Fund (a DCMS fund administered by Arts Council England) and Rochdale Borough Council as part of an £8.5 million investment into arts and culture across the borough. Touchstones also became one of Arts Council England’s ‘National Portfolio Organisations’ for the first time in 2023.
The approved plans will see the much loved building transformed into a creative and cultural hub with new flexible performance and production spaces for artists, improved areas for training, live events and exhibitions. The work will also include a new dining space combining the theme of food with the borough’s collections, co-created alongside Rochdale’s diverse communities. Thanks to an additional grant of just under £250,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund ‘The Dining Room’ will see three artists commissioned to work with 20 community curators to produce a new museum space alongside several other projects in time for when it re-opens in 2025. This will include collaborations with Tate and the National Gallery and a reimagining of Harry Meadley’s 2022 exhibition Free-For-All.
There will also be vital works to improve the building’s accessibility and sustainability.
The project has been developed in partnership between Rochdale Borough Council, Your Trust and Rochdale Development Agency (RDA) who lead on regeneration, including culture and placemaking on behalf of the council.
A main contractor is due to be appointed in the coming months and North-west based Hive Projects are leading on the project management, with architects Architectural Emporium, heritage architect BB Heritage Studio and landscape architect Gillespies. Structural and civil engineers Sutcliffe are working alongside quantity surveyor Identity Consult and mechanical, electrical and plumbing engineers Steven Hunt & Associates. Jenson Hughes are the fire consultant.
The Touchstones project forms a key part of the establishment of a creative district in Rochdale town centre, which includes the refurbishment of Rochdale Town Hall the new town hall square, the Fire Up digital and creative co-working space, new artist workspaces on Richard Street as well as new public art, signage and marketing.
Councillor Sue Smith, cabinet member for communities and co-operation at Rochdale Borough Council said: “We are very grateful for the Arts Council support which is enabling us to significantly upgrade Touchstones and create new cultural projects which will help to boost visitor numbers, support local businesses and drive economic growth. Work will start on site soon, turning the building into something truly wonderful and fit for the 21st century, creating more opportunities for local people and visitors to enjoy culture in Rochdale.”
Jen Cleary, director north, Arts Council England said: “Rochdale is a priority place for our funding and so it is great to see the redevelopment of Touchstones taking place this spring, thanks to investment of £4,199,365 through the Cultural Development Fund. The establishment of a creative hub in the town centre will attract new audiences to an array of exciting performances, events and exhibitions as well as supporting the local economy. This project is an excellent example of how partnership working can transform places and I look forward to seeing how it develops.”
The Cultural Development Fund supporting the Touchstones works is a Department for Culture, Media and Sport fund administered by Arts Council England. Touchstones is one of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio Organisations.