Derby City Council

Assembly Rooms “airbrushed” out of Council’s uninspiring Culture and Visitor Strategy

At the 12 February 2020 Cabinet meeting 2 reports will be presented :

  • Developing Derby as a Visitor Destination : Destination Management Plan (DMP) 2020 – 2025
  • Derby Culture Strategy 2020 – 2030

The existing City Centre Master Plan 2030 (issued 2016) stated in its introduction:

“Having a vibrant city centre is crucial to ensure the wealth created in Derby is retained here, further investment is secured and Derby’s residents, businesses and visitors benefit. Creating jobs and prosperity for local people is at the heart of this Masterplan, and successful delivery will promote the health and well-being of our residents.”

The document contained a 5 Year Delivery Plan

“Our Delivery Plan focuses on actions we are committed to deliver over the next 5 years that will achieve the greatest impact. We will be flexible to respond to opportunities that arise and will continue to deliver the wealth of positive work that already goes on to promote, manage and develop Derby City Centre.”

Top billing in that Delivery Plan was:

“Key focus: To create a new performance venue in the City Centre”

“The creation of a new performance venue in the heart of Derby City Centre is critical to the future success of Derby as a place to live, work and invest. The venue will lead the economic regeneration of the City and be the catalyst for further investment in the retail, leisure and office sectors. Its location on the site of the Assembly Rooms will create a venue that is capable of enabling Derby to attract top entertainment, cultural performances and commercial events”

That plan was rejected by the Conservative administration in May 2018 and their alternative, which was to refurbish the Assembly Rooms, finally proved to be uneconomic in Jan 2020.

Other aspects of the plan included:

  • Renovating the Silk Mill ( Museum of Making)
  • Re-inventing the Market place
  • Becketwell regeneration
  • Co-ordinated events programme

As well as plans to improve business opportunities, and city centre housing.

The new DMP seems to have taken a step back, with less specific deliverables;

“Engage with relevant colleagues and stakeholders to explore a vision for the Market Place which will improve the environment and open the opportunity for a programme of quality events.”

“Increase engagement of the DMP Steering Group with the Market Hall/
Guildhall Theatre projects.”

In the analysis, the DMP identifies the Strengths of Derby City Centre including:

  • New attractions and developments: Museum of Making, River bus, Swimming Pool.

With a key weakness being:

  • No purpose built conference venue. Lack of awareness as a conference/ meeting destination.

With an opportunity being:

  • Potential to host conferences and events

With a major threat being:

  • Lack of awareness of the potential of the Visitor Economy amongst some stakeholders.

And no plan to exploit the opportunity to “host conferences and events”

Objective number 1 in the DMP is now to:

“Support new product development that will increase visitor numbers, reach new audiences, enhance the visitor experience and/ or improve Derby’s reputation.”

This will be achieved through actions, including:

  • Increase awareness of Derby as a conference destination with a variety of existing and new Business Visits & Events venues.
  • Explore and develop opportunities to attract more Business Visits & Events to Derby venues.
  • Explore and develop plans for attracting new cultural/ leisure events to Derby, particularly at weekends

The Culture Strategy 2020-2030 which focuses on a “blue-sky”, but fairly obvious, long term vision recognises the limitations of the current infrastructure. In its Action Plan 2020-2022 under the heading of:

Map existing, and plan for future, creative and cultural infrastructure

the most ambitious action is rather over-corporate, and opaque:

“Develop pop-up and ‘meanwhile use’ of empty property and visioning for longer term repurposing of buildings for creative and cultural activity.”


The authors of these reports seem to have taken 50 pages to regurgitate the obvious. There is nothing new, nothing ambitious and nothing remotely truly visionary. It seems to be recycling some old ideas, contemplating the same problems that have always been there, and having little innovative thinking to move the City Centre forward….it seems to have stepped backwards and become uninspiring

The most glaring omission is any mention of the “Assembly Rooms”; a venue in the Market Place, for entertainment and conferences. Up until recently this was the solution to re-energise the Market Place. Now in a Soviet Union style censorship policy, any reference to the Assembly Rooms/Performance Venue has been airbrushed out, as though it never existed, it was never part of the plan – it was never a solution.

What Assembly Rooms?

Categories: Derby City Council

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