About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Who are we investing in?

Based in the historic town of Colchester in Essex, the Mercury is a major producing theatre for the region, focusing on developing new talent and supporting young people. The theatre dates back to 1937, when it started life as the Colchester Repertory Company. In 1972, a major public fundraising campaign allowed it to move into its current home, next to the town’s iconic water tower, ‘Jumbo’. At the time, this was a state-of-the-art theatre, comprising of a 480-seat main theatre, a smaller studio, an onsite workshop and wardrobe facilities.

In recent times, the Mercury has made a name for itself in cultivating new talent. Example programmes include an annual Essex Playwriting Competition, a Festival of New Work in partnership with the BBC and the University of Essex and a Vocational Degree in Technical Theatre that the Mercury delivers in partnership with the Colchester Institute. Its community outreach team takes theatre into local schools, works with the town’s major garrison community and delivers sessions to children and young adults with additional needs and disabilities.

What are we investing in?

Whilst several minor improvements have been made to the site since the 1970s, there has been no significant, regular investment in the theatre’s infrastructure over the years. To continue meeting the needs of a growing and more diverse audience, the theatre recently embarked on a £10 million capital project, Mercury Rising, to modernise the existing building and add new spaces and facilities, including a dedicated space for its creative learning and talent development initiatives. The construction phase of the project began in June 2019 and ahead of this, the theatre approached the Arts Impact Fund to provide cashflow support to the project as capital fundraising continues.

The theatre will re-open to the public in September 2020. In the meantime, the Mercury will move to a large, temporary bell-tent in the nearby Abbey Field, beginning its return to the building in the spring of 2020.

Read the full Mercury Theatre case study on the Arts & Culture Finance website.

Image: Mercury Theatre New Building Visualisation

East of England