Aberystwyth University Arts Centre

Aberystwyth University

Aberystwyth University Arts Centre

Aberystwyth Arts Centre had its beginnings in the 1970s when the then University College of Wales, Aberystwyth built the facility with the ambition to serve not just the College, but also the town and the surrounding counties.

The first phase was the Concert Hall (the Great Hall), which opened in 1970. Designed by architect Dale Owen of Percy Thomas Partnership the building was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal for Architecture in Wales. In Autumn 1972 the second phase of the Centre was completed and the Theatre (‘Theatr y Werin’, literally ‘theatre of the people’) came into use. This marked the final phase of the project – and Aberystwyth Arts Centre was born.

From the very beginning the Arts Centre pursued a diverse mixed programming policy, encouraging and supporting local groups and University ensembles and inviting leading professional companies to Aberystwyth. The professional work was made possible through the on-going support of the University as well as support from the Welsh Arts Council and the West Wales Association for the Arts.

The first manager of the Arts Centre, Roger Tomlinson, ran the venue from the planning phases, through the first years until 1975 when he left to take on a similar role for Theatr Clwyd in North Wales. In the early years under Roger Tomlinson’s direction there was some adventurous theatre programming including productions with now very well know names from film and television including Peter Postlethwaite and Julie Walters, and major companies such as Welfare State.

Ken Williams, an ex RAF Wing Commander, who had been Roger Tomlinson’s Administrator, took over as Manager in 1975 with a specialism and love of classical music. As well as nurturing the concert programme, under his direction the first of the musical productions were established. These are now a hugely popular feature of the Centre’s summer programme as well as encouraging young professional talent. Michael Ball one of the UK’s top musical stars had his professional debut in the Centre’s production of Godspell in 1985.