CIVIC chiefs have confirmed Winchester’s historic Antique Market will now become a hub for theatre, music and the arts in the first redevelopment under the Silver Hill 2 scheme.

Officially known as the Central Winchester Regeneration Project (CWR), the scheme aims to revamp the area surrounding the building, with the improvement of the Antique Market being one of Winchester City Council’s short-term goals.

The newly-formed ‘Nutshell Arts’ Community Interest Company plans to re-brand the venue as ‘The Nutshell’ and offer it as an accessible place for creatives to use for rehearsals, workshops, exhibitions and small-scale productions; alongside resident companies the Discarded Nut Theatre Company and ENCORE Youth Theatre.

It comes after the council approved spending £25,000 to bring the vacant building, dating from the 1890s, back to life, with The Nutshell aiming to fundraise £35,000 for essential building works and set-up costs.

Council leader Caroline Horrill said: “We are thrilled to have such a vibrant and exciting company take up residence in the Antique Market. We’re committed to developing our existing buildings and refurbishing them to provide businesses with the space they need while the redevelopment proposals for the wider Central Winchester area are developed.

“This company has a great community offering and has worked hard to develop their ideas of how they would use this space. I’m looking forward to seeing the resident companies and other artistes creating some inspiring theatre and music and to benefit from using the space for their projects and rehearsals.

The Nutshell is set to be run by Winchester-based Noël Jones and Harriet Morris, who currently run the Discarded Nut Theatre Company and ENCORE Youth Theatre, alongside Anna Harding, the Winchester Jazz Festival director and a member of The Spitfire Sisters.

They have worked with Richard Harrison of Snug Architects to ensure the space within the venue can be fully accessible.

Ms Jones said: “Since we set up the Discarded Nut Theatre Company eight years ago, we recognised how difficult it can be to find appropriate performance and creative space.

“This is an amazing opportunity to create a vibrant centre for the arts where people of all ages can come together for friendship, to be inspired, to create, to learn or to simply experience the wealth of diverse homegrown talent that exists in Winchester.”

Ms Morris added: “We’re really excited about this opportunity as it has been part of our wider vision for the last five years. This building is such a great space and will be a wonderful location for our work, the work of local creatives and the wider community.

“We plan to open for public hire from October but will be launching the opening of the venue in September.”

The company also employs newly-qualified arts practitioners in their first professional engagement as well as offering interesting and stimulating work-experience placements to our local secondary schools and sixth form colleges.

Anna Harding encouraged others to get involved: “We’re laying the foundations so we can see what it’ll grow into and how the space could be used. So, we would love for other creatives to come forward and talk to us about how they want to use the space.”