Liverpool actors praise award-winning Everyman Theatre

Liverpool's Everyman theatre Image copyright Getty Images

Actors, theatre-goers and local dignitaries have spoken of their pride after Liverpool's Everyman Theatre won the Riba Sterling Prize for best new building of the year.

The venue beat five other buildings to win the Royal Institute of British Architects' highest accolade.

The theatre helped launch the careers of household names including actors Stephen Graham and David Morrissey.

Morrissey tweeted: "Brilliant news. Can't wait to work there again!"

The Everyman Theatre first opened in 1964 in the shell of a 19th Century chapel on one of Liverpool's main streets.

The likes of Bill Nighy, Julie Walters and Pete Postlethwaite are among other famous thespians to have performed on its stage.

However over the years it fell into a state of disrepair and architects Haworth Tompkins were tasked with designing a new theatre as part of a nine-year £27m rebuilding project, retaining its theme of being a "theatre for the people".

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Media captionStaff and visitors to the new Liverpool Everyman talk about the building

The building's facade features 105 punched aluminium panels portraying life-size images of Liverpool residents. Thousands queued to have their pictures taken, with the successful applicants having digital versions of their pictures etched onto the metal sun shades.

Among them was BBC North West Tonight reporter Mark Edwardson. He said: "My place on the fantastic new building's façade came about through happy circumstance.

"I went to one of the photoshoots as a reporter. After I'd filmed and interview some of the people who now also adorn the façade the photographer asked me if I had any Merseyside connections.

"I grew up on Merseyside and I told him about my many fond experiences and memories of Liverpool. After that he suggested I have a couple of pictures taken. I obliged, left and promptly forgot about the whole thing.

Image copyright Philip Vile
Image caption The rebuilding process was boosted by £17m of National Lottery funding

"A year later I got a letter saying I'd been chosen to be one of the 105! It's an absolute delight to be part of it.

"And I'm really pleased for the theatre that's now been recognised. The designers, builders and staff deserve it.

Comment: BBC Radio Merseyside's Roger Phillips

I've been associated with the Everyman since the early 70s and I'm still a member of the board today.

It's taken 10 years for us to get to this point. I loved the old theatre and I argued that we should keep it, but it became patently obvious that we had to knock it down.

Getting the right architect was extremely difficult, but we got a phenomenal architect who understood what we wanted.

He spoke to people and didn't design anything until he got a feel for the place. The bistro, the shape of the auditorium and the idea to keep the bricks were key.

As an accolade for the city it's brilliant. It's gone all over the world - even the Shanghai Times ran a piece today. This is what Liverpool is all about, it's a city of quality.

Liverpool-born actor Cathy Tyson, currently starring in Bright Phoenix at the theatre, said: "I feel quite moved for the people who have worked on this from the beginning of the process; the plans, the consultation, the building.

"What a wonderful thing."

The city's mayor Joe Anderson said: "I'm delighted. There's absolutely no-one more chuffed than me. It's all credit to the architects and constructors.

"It's a fantastic building and the places we've beaten, like the Shard in London, show just what an amazing achievement it is.

"We've already got some Grade II-listed buildings which are the envy of the world. This puts Liverpool on the map even more."

Image copyright Philip Vile
Image caption Rebuilding the theatre has been a nine-year project for architects Haworth Tompkins

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