INVERCLYDE'S new £10 million arts centre received the Royal seal of approval last night - when Prince Edward made a private visit to unveil its new name.
The Earl of Wessex attended a private fundraising function at Greenock's Custom House, where he announced that the new theatre will be called The Beacon Arts Centre.
The new name has a strong association with the location of the facility, since the Georgian lamp which sits in front of the Custom House was originally known as The Beacon. It was a guiding light for ships mooring at the quayside.
Prince Edward, who became a patron of the Arts Guild last year, met with members of the local community and unveiled a commemorative artwork commissioned for the occasion from glass artist Alec Galloway. This will be placed in the new building for the opening in 2012.
The Prince is passionate about the arts and has been involved in theatre since his school days. In the 1980s, he worked for two theatrical production companies, including Andrew Lloyd Webber's Really Useful Theatre Company, where he was involved in projects such as The Phantom of the Opera, Starlight Express and Cats, and is aware of the benefits the new facility will bring to Inverclyde.
Greenock Arts Guild chairman Elliott McKelvie welcomed His Royal Highness, saying: "We are delighted to welcome our patron, the Earl of Wessex, to Inverclyde to announce the name of our new arts centre.
"On completion, The Beacon will be one of the finest arts complexes of its size anywhere in the UK. It will bring quality live theatre and music to audiences from all over the west of Scotland and will also be a vibrant performing space for our community arts groups, who have always been such an important part of the cultural scene in Inverclyde." Work on the new building, which will replace the existing Arts Guild theatre, starts this week. It will house a 500-seat main auditorium, together with a 130-seat studio theatre, three large rehearsal rooms and a riverside café/bar with outstanding views over the Clyde. It builds on an impressive 60-year track record of Greenock Arts Guild.
The name of the contemporary centre is also apt as it is seen as a shining light in the overall regeneration of Greenock's historic waterfront.
Provost Michael McCormick said: "We are very pleased to be able welcome His Royal Highness to Inverclyde and I am sure he has been impressed with the scope and scale of our regeneration plans and to see the start of work on the new arts centre. It is a key part of our vision to transform the area and to improve the quality of life of our communities." Inverclyde Council's Convener of regeneration, councillor Jim Clocherty, added: "Today marks an important milestone for the transformation of the waterfront in Greenock.
"The new arts centre will not just be a centre for artistic excellence in Inverclyde and beyond, but it will become an important landmark in its own right. Sitting opposite the iconic Custom House, which represents the area's proud and prosperous history, the new building will embody the thriving and exciting future we are building here." Bill Nicol, chief executive of Riverside Inverclyde, said: "I am delighted His Royal Highness has come to Inverclyde waterfront today to unveil the name for the new arts centre and to lend his support to the continuing fundraising efforts. I am sure he will be impressed by the new building and the scale, quality and ambition behind our wider regeneration plans to make Inverclyde a vibrant place in which to work and play."