Built in 1898, The Tower Arts Centre was originally a Water Tower serving Winchester, until, in 1955 the Reservoir proved inadequate to the City’s needs and became surplus
to requirements. In 1964 the octagonal shaped Tower was purchased by Hampshire County Council for use as a place for rehearsing and performing Theatre under the control of the Department of Education .
was eventually opened in 1969 as a Drama Centre with toilets, workshop space, coffee bar, changing rooms and a gallery area.
As the Centre became more established it ventured into other art forms and began to provide
activities for adults, bringing in professional Theatre companies on occasion to perform for drama groups and the general public. The rest of the programme continued to develop with the Centre introducing live music events,
until in 1990 the Tower was transferred to the Department of Recreation, and then to the Arts, Countryside and Community Department.
In June 1996 Phase One of the Building programme - the visual arts studio, and accessible
toilet - was completed and plans drawn up for Phase Two. This same year The Tower joined with five other Hampshire arts centres to form a consortium (subsequently called andCo) and won funding from the Arts Council of England
to investigate new areas of programming and joint initiatives. Consequently, Phase Two has been delayed and other options are being considered.
The Tower continues to grow and develop, with good attendance’s for events
and classes as part of an increasingly varied arts programme for Winchester, and the wider community. The Tower also created and hosts the Winchester Youth Theatre, the hugely successful Winchester Children’s Festival and
an annual Summer School. They also publish a special newsletter (The Rocket) three time a year which goes into all Winchester junior and primary schools. The audiovisual systems have been upgraded with new surround sound and
video projection facilities. It is also anticipated that The Tower become a recording studio, producing tapes and CD’s as well as publishing poetry and other literature.
One can only be impressed by the number and
range of activities that The Tower has on offer. Every aspect of ‘The Arts’ is represented, and provides for all sections of the community. Music, Theatre, Comedy, A Children’s Festival, Exhibitions, and
a whole range of classes in just about anything connected with the arts is on offer. A really great mix of events.