An innovative new facility for young creative talent

Work to transform the basement of Portsmouth Guildhall into an exciting, new creative space for young people to explore, collaborate and perform is set to begin from Monday 23rd October.

The £1.3million project will see the main basement area and associated rooms remodelled to provide an innovative space where young people aged 11-25 will be able to meet and explore their creative potential.

The welcoming and safe space, to be named The Base, will open in late Spring 2024 as one of the most unique and innovative creative facilities in the country, giving young people access to a band rehearsal room with backline equipment, a small studio with a DJ mixing space, a large AV suite with specialist software, a performance space and a lounge/exhibition area.

Collaborating with schools, colleges and cultural partners from across the region, The Base will be a catalyst for creativity and collaboration, with specialist programmes and workshops delivered by some of the foremost practitioners in the sector to support young people in achieving their creative objectives.

Post pandemic it is widely reported that young people have become more disengaged and isolated with one in four suffering heightened anxiety and poor mental health. The Base will remove barriers to engagement and offer a nurturing environment for all, including students and young people from low-income families and under-represented groups.

Engaged in the project since its inception, young people have informed the design and facilities that The Base will offer, and now a larger Youth Advisory Panel is being established that will continue the development and creation of the space.

As part of the redevelopment, the Guildhall’s main customer toilets, which have seen little change since the venue was reopened by HM The Queen in 1959, will be replaced with new facilities that include accessible and gender-neutral facilities, a Changing Place facility and twice as many female cubicles.

The plans for The Base have been developed by the award-winning Benedetti Architects, whose recent projects include the extension and redevelopment of the BAFTA headquarters in London, and multi-disciplinary design studio HemingwayDesign, who have a legacy and portfolio that spans four decades, with clients including Shelter, The National Trust, Southbank Centre & TFL. Project and cost management is being provided by Equals Consulting whose clients include The British Museum and Blackheath Halls.

The majority of funding for the project has been received from Portsmouth City Council and Arts Council England, with significant contributions from The Foyle Foundation and other trusts and foundations set to be announced.

£499,000 was allocated from Arts Council England’s Capital Investment Programme which has the vision of “building a fit for the future cultural sector that all members of the community can access”. The Guildhall Trust was one of 66 cultural organisations from across the country to be awarded a grant under the programme.

£550,000 has been received from Portsmouth City Council with a further £10,000 contributed through the Charles Dickens Neighbourhood Community Infrastructure Levy fund.

Leader of the City Council with responsibility for culture, Cllr Steve Pitt, said, “We’re pleased to work in partnership with Portsmouth Guildhall to provide funding of over £500,000 to help create an innovative space for young people to meet and explore their creative potential. It’s important to us to develop new cultural focal points in the city, and for all our residents to have access to a range of cultural activities and facilities to enhance their quality of life and make Portsmouth a great place to live.”

A further £45,000 has been awarded by The Foyle Foundation, an independent grant making trust which prioritises Arts and Learning charities with small charities and state funded schools.

Emsworth-based design and construction company, Chalk Creatives, who are known for their innovative approach and efficient build processes for the education and commercial sectors, have been contracted to complete the transformation.

Alex Ward, MD of Chalk said, I am absolutely delighted that Chalk has been selected as the construction partner for this local project, which promises to bring exceptional facilities not only to our immediate community but also to a wider audience. This opportunity underscores our commitment to elevating spaces that inspire and cater to the diverse needs of those who utilise them.”

The Renaissance of Portsmouth Guildhall is an ambitious programme of development to ensure that the venue continues to thrive for future generations and support the Trust’s vision of becoming one of the leading cultural organisations in the country to inspire, entertain and transform lives. The creation of The Base is the next step of the Renaissance programme following the development of The Lens Studio space in 2018, with the refurbishment of the main auditorium and front of house and bar facilities to follow in the near future.

Andy Grays, CEO of The Guildhall Trust, said “The transformation of the basement is an exciting phase of the Renaissance of Portsmouth Guildhall. The Base will allow us to provide a much more suitable environment for some of our existing work with young people, such as our UVG – The Urban Vocal Group, and importantly provide a new, supportive and much needed facility within our community that will help young people to flourish and feel safe”.

You can find out more about The Base and follow the works at:

Young people who are interested in joining a Youth Advisory Panel, practitioners who are interested in using The Base and potentially collaborating on a programme of workshops, and businesses who are interested in exploring opportunities of how they can support young people in the community are encouraged to get in touch!
Call Hayley Reay on 023 9387 0193 or email

If you are attending a concert or event at Portsmouth Guildhall from 23rd October please read more here.

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