Conference centre as shown from centre of promenade
Llandudno, Conway, Wales
|Owner||Conwy County Borough Council|
|Construction cost||£10.7 million (2005 redevelopment)|
|Former name(s)||Aberconwy Centre (1982-94)
North Wales Theatre and Conference Centre (1994-2007)
|Banquet/ballroom||250 (Orme Suite)
800 (Venue Cymru Hall)
|Theatre seating||1,450 (Venue Cymru Theatre Auditorium)
2,500 (Venue Cymru Arena)
|• Exhibit hall floor||7,000 m2 (75,000 sq ft)|
Venue Cymru (formerly the Aberconwy Centre and the North Wales Theatre and Conference Centre) is a large arts, conference and events venue in Llandudno, Conwy county borough, north Wales, incorporating a 1,500 seat theatre, restaurant, conference centre and arena.
There has been a theatre on the Venue Cymru site since 1894 and conference facilities since 1982. Originally named the Victoria Palace, it was built by Jules Rivière (then aged 75) who for many years had been the celebrated resident conductor of the Llandudno Pier Orchestra and a pioneer of the seaside promenade concert. He established his own 42 piece orchestra at the 1,015 seat Victoria Palace, which attracted eminent visiting soloists including Sir Charles and Lady Hallé who in 1895 gave a piano and violin recital with the orchestra.
The building was only intended to be a temporary structure but became a landmark on the promenade for over 100 years. It changed its name several times, firstly to Rivière's Concert Hall, then in 1900 it became the Llandudno Opera House and the venue for the Carl Rosa Opera Company. Later it was called the Hippodrome.
In 1915 the theatre was bought by Will Catlin and renamed the Arcadia. The Arcadia provided 1,147 seats in the auditorium and was the last of Llandudno’s many theatres and cinemas to offer traditional seaside entertainments. It was the home of Will Catlin's Pierrots, which eventually became presented as "Catlin's Follies with an all star cast". Catlin's Follies survived the sudden death in 1953 (aged 82) of Will Catlin and continued until the theatre was bought by Llandudno Urban Council in 1968. The Arcadia continued as a summer theatre under local authority ownership until 1993.
In 1982 the Aberconwy Centre opened next door to the Arcadia theatre. The Aberconwy Centre hosted conference space for over 1,000 delegates as well as a squash centre, sun beds and badminton facilities!
On 22 June 1994 the curtain dropped on the Arcadia, the Aberconwy Centre was redeveloped and re-named, and the North Wales Theatre and Conference Centre was born. The North Wales Theatre consisted of a 1,500 seat auditorium in a fully equipped receiving house theatre able to stage the largest of West End touring productions. The adjoining North Wales Conference Centre provided a host of conference facilities including the 700 square metre hall capable of seating 800 delegates theatre style and hosting standing concerts for over 1,000.
Redevelopment of the Arcadia
The original Arcadia theatre was abandoned and lay derelict until July 2005 when it was demolished to make way for a £10.7 million project to enhance and re-develop the facilities at the North Wales Theatre and Conference Centre. Where the Arcadia once stood, to the east of the complex, a new conference atrium and suite of meeting and conference rooms was built including a new 1,550 square metre arena providing space for 1,800 seats theatre style or more than 2,500 people standing. The total capacity of the conference centre rose dramatically to over 5,000 delegates.
To the west of the existing building another new extension was added providing a café bar, restaurant, office space and improved box office facilities. The enhancement was funded by Conwy County Borough Council and its funding partners. The greatest amount of money came from the European Union's Objective One Fund Programme, with further significant amounts coming from the Arts Council of Wales (£1million lottery funding), Visit Wales (now part of the Welsh Assembly Government), the Welsh Development Agency (also part of the Welsh Assembly Government) and the Local Regeneration Fund.
The North Wales Theatre, Conference Centre and Arena required a new, shorter and bilingual (Welsh/English) name. In December 2005 a competition was launched in a local newspaper to rename the complex. Almost 300 entries were received and the winning entry Venue Cymru (Cymru is Welsh for Wales) was chosen a few months later. Venue Cymru was officially opened on Monday, 15 January 2007 by Andrew Davies AM and has been described as the beginning of a new era for entertainment, conferencing and events in Llandudno. Theatrical entertainments include drama, ballet, opera, ice shows, orchestral concerts, brass and military bands, musical comedy and pantomime.
- Ivor Wynne Jones. Llandudno Queen of Welsh Resorts (chapter 6 page 45)
- Ivor Wynne Jones. Llandudno Queen of Welsh Resorts (chapter 6 page 47)
- Ivor Wynne Jones. Llandudno Queen of Welsh Resorts Landmark, Ashbourne Derbyshire 2002 ISBN 1-84306-048-5 .