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Fully booked: historical Manchester library has received £400K for redevelopment

The Portico Library in Manchester has been given a £453,954 development grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to help bring the organisations grand vision to life. 

Established in 1806, the Portico, a much-loved cultural destination in the heart of Manchester city centre, will now work with experts and a range of community stakeholders to trial plans for the bold £7m capital development project that will transform the building and preserve the historic book collection.

a building with pillars

During the development phase, which is set to begin immediately, the library is set to invite local communities to work with them on testing how to convert the ground floor and basements into a welcoming area that will be complete with dining and exhibition areas, a ‘Northern Bookshop’, educational activities, a collections-care lab, and meeting spaces.

As well as making changing to the lower level of the Library, the organisation also plan to reunite all three original floors of the Grade II listed building for the first time in more than 100 years. This includes installing a lift to make the establishment for accessible. All technical access requirements, such as the lift, will be supported by creative consultation.

Commenting on the news, John Carpenter, the Portico Library’s chair, said: ‘The news that The National Lottery Heritage Fund is supporting the Portico Library’s bold scheme to open up and share its extraordinary heritage and collection, to Manchester residents and visitors, is a major cultural signal to Manchester, the North and the UK.

‘This visionary project, years in the making, fulfils our mission of working with the many people in Manchester to explore, share, and celebrate their diverse stories and the city’s literary and global heritage. Embracing creativity, collaboration and inclusivity, the project will unlock the Library’s past to plan for the future. We would like to thank the National Lottery players who have made it possible to realise our vision.’

However, despite changes to the library being confirmed, the upper floors of the library will conserve and enhance the existing heritage, showcasing the unique book collection, manuscript archive and architecture.

Debbie Challis, creative producer at the Portico Library said: ‘There are lots of opportunities ahead and we’re really looking forward to collaborating further, sharing ideas and working together to make the Portico a more accessible space – technically, creatively and intellectually.’

Image: Bovia & Co. Photography

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