US mini logoHome | A-Z Index | People | Reference | Contact us

Press release

  • 3 April 2009

Gardner to re-open as Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts

The Attenborough family at the Gardner Centre for Lord Attenboroughs inauguration as Chancellor in

The Attenborough family at the Gardner Centre for Lord Attenborough's inauguration as Chancellor in 1999.

The Gardner Centre is to be renamed as the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts in time for the University's 50th anniversary celebrations in 2011-12.

The renaming, a tribute to Lord Attenborough and his family's involvement with both the University and the arts, will mark a new beginning for the Centre.

A total refurbishment will provide a flexible auditorium with a mixture of up to three stages and up to 500 seats; an exhibition gallery; a café; and three studios of different sizes. A Director for the Centre will be appointed this year.

The announcement is being made as the University of Sussex launches its new Strategic Plan, designed to double research income by 2015, to strengthen Sussex's position as a world-leading research institution and to enhance student learning and the student experience.

The new Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts will be at the centre of practice-based arts programmes on campus and available to the wider community. The cost of refurbishment, estimated at about £4 million, is being met through the University's Capital Investment Programme.

Activities will include:

  • Shows, exhibitions and performances generated by students and research staff;
  • Symposia and conferences;
  • Residencies with national and international companies or practitioners;
  • Exchanges and co-commissions with other universities, research centres and venues;
  • Links to Brighton's festival seasons;
  • Special commissions generated by arts schools or the University centrally;
  • Workshops (including a range of teaching and practical/practitioner-based activities).

Announcing the new name, the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Michael Farthing, said: "The Attenborough family have been associated with Sussex for over 40 years, since Lord Attenborough became our Pro-Chancellor following his son Michael's admission to the University in 1969. He then served as our Chancellor for 10 years until 2008. His daughter Jane also studied here. We are proud to mark the outstanding contribution they have made to the life of Sussex in this way."

Lord Attenborough's daughter Jane, who died in the tsunami disaster in 2004, will also be commemorated in the naming of a dedicated room within the Centre.

Lord Attenborough said: "Sussex has played a vital role in the life of my family. Two of my children each spent three thrilling years there, time I know they found both really enjoyable and of immeasurable value. For me personally my time as Chancellor was one of uninterrupted pleasure and inspiration. I am truly excited by the plans for the new Centre and hugely touched by the honour the University grants in naming it after my family."

Michael Attenborough, Director of London's Almeida Theatre, who graduated from Sussex in 1972, said: "The Arts Centre was integral to my three hugely rewarding years at Sussex and I am proud to have been in the very first student production there. My late sister Jane equally loved her time at Sussex and was passionate about the arts; the establishment of a room bearing her name means more to us than we can ever explain. But finally, of course, you honour my father. He is arguably more proud of being Chancellor of this remarkable University than any other achievement in his life-time."

The new Chancellor, Sanjeev Bhaskar, praised the decision to breathe new life into the centre and to honour his predecessor and family in this way. "I am thrilled the University is to make this major step forward in future arts provision on the campus. And there could be no more fitting name than Attenborough. I look forward to supporting the University on this development and perhaps even a performance at the venue as part of the 50th celebrations."

Sally Abbott, Director of Arts, Arts Council England, said: "The Gardner Arts Centre played a significant role in the lives of UK and international artists after its founding in the 1960s. This is a welcome new stage in the life of this extraordinary building. We are delighted that this unique place will once again be at the heart of the University's contribution to creativity while playing its part in the regional arts and culture infrastructure."

Simon Fanshawe, chair of the University's Council, said: "The Attenborough Centre is a thrilling new project. It will show Sussex's creativity at its best in collaboration with world class names, both local and from the international scene."

Specific dates for a formal opening will be developed by the new Director and, subject to his/her appointment, the building could be in use again during the 2010-11 academic year.

The Gardner name itself will live on within the Centre in recognition of the support given to the founding of the building in the 1960s.

Notes for editors

 HISTORY of the Gardner Building

  •  A grant of £48,400 from the Gulbenkian Foundation in 1962 to encourage creative arts in the University and the neighbouring region was the first stage in setting up an Arts Centre on the University's Falmer campus.  The building itself was financed with a benefaction of £175,000 from the late Mr T Lyddon Gardner, and designed by Sir Basil Spence. It opened in 1969. The first production was Comrade Jacob.
  • The Gardner Arts Centre, as run by the Gardner Arts Centre Board and later by Gardner Arts Centre Ltd, was a beacon for the arts for the next three decades, hosting a variety of events and performers, from jazz to contemporary dance to international theatre.
  • Following major losses in  funding, and substantial running and refurbishment costs, the Gardner Arts Centre closed in 2007.
  • The University subsequently set up a working party to oversee the refurbishment,  and to plan the new uses of the building.

 University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune, Jacqui Bealing and Danïelle Treanor. Phone 01273 678 888 or email


Useful links

Site maintained by: Web team Disclaimer | Feedback