Aberystwyth University Great Hall

Aberystwyth University

Aberystwyth University Great Hall

Aberystwyth Arts Centre is one of the largest arts centres in Wales.Located on Aberystwyth University’s Penglais campus, it comprises a theatre (312 seats), concert hall (900 seats), studio (80 seats) and cinema (125 seats), as well as four gallery spaces and cafés, bars, and shops.

The University College of Wales, Aberystwyth began building Aberystwyth Arts Centre on its Penglais campus in the 1970s to serve the College, the town of Aberystwyth, and the surrounding counties.

The first phase was the concert hall (the Great Hall), which opened in 1970. Designed by architect Dale Owen of the Percy Thomas Partnership, the building was awarded the RIBA Gold Medal for Architecture in Wales. The second and final phase was the theatre (‘Theatr y Werin’,literally ‘theatre of the people’), completed in Autumn 1972.

From the outset the Arts Centre pursued a diverse programming policy, supporting local groups and University ensembles as well as inviting leading professional companies. The project receives ongoing support from the University, the Arts Council of Wales, and the West Wales Association for the Arts.

The first manager, Roger Tomlinson, ran the venue from the planning phases through to 1975, when he left for a similar role with Theatr Clwyd in North Wales. His programming at Aberystwyth introduced productions that featured well-known names from film and television, such as Peter Postlethwaite and Julie Walters.

Ken Williams, an ex-RAF Wing Commander who had been Tomlinson’s Administrator, took over as Manager in 1975. A classical music aficionado, he nurtured the concert programming and helped establish the musical productions whose successors still feature in the Centre’s summer programmes. Michael Ball’s professional debut was in the Centre’s 1985 production of Godspell.

The Visual Arts and Exhibitions Programme was substantially expanded with Arts Council of Wales funding in 1978, and Alan Hewson was appointed Exhibitions Officer. Having also established the Arts Centre Café in 1980, the Bookshop in 1981, the Arts Centre film programme in 1983, and the Visual Arts Education Programme, the first of the Centre’s community arts and education programmes, in 1984, Hewson was appointed Director the following year.