The date for the commencement of the Ardhowen Theatre redevelopment project has been delayed due to “the complexities associated with the redesign of such a listed building” but it still remains a “priority project”, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has confirmed.

The Council had previously announced in April 2022 that the theatre would close in the spring/summer of 2023, to facilitate the full refurbishment, which is estimated to cost £7.14 million.

In February 2023, the Council confirmed that the works would not begin in 2023 as planned but were to commence in 2024, with an estimated construction period of 18 months.

Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen..

Ardhowen Theatre, Enniskillen..

However, this week, when asked for an update on the commencement date and timescale of the project, the Council spokesperson said: “The proposed Ardhowen redevelopment project commencement date changed from that previously communicated due to the complexities associated with the redesign of such a listed building. Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, with the Integrated Consultants Team, is continuing to work on the design and associated costs for the proposed redevelopment of the Ardhowen Theatre.”

The spokesperson added that a project update will be considered by the Council in the coming months: “Subject to approval, a timeline for the commencement and duration of the works will be agreed and communicated.

“The redevelopment of both the Ardhowen and the Fermanagh Lakeland Forum continue to be priority capital projects for the Council.”

Dave Rees, Director of Enniskillen Drama Festival commented that although he can understand the “frustration around the delay”, he is pleased that the redevelopment of the theatre is going ahead.

“From my point of view, I’m just pleased that it’s going ahead, that there will be a refurbishment. I can understand the frustration around the delay because the Council will be frustrated as well,” he said, adding: “The Ardhowen is a beautiful theatre and we’d like to have a nice refurbished one.

“So for me, it’s a positive that it’s still going ahead. I think that’s that’s a really good outcome on it and that they’ve [the Council] committed to it.”

As there is now no definite timeline for the redevelopment works to begin at the Ardhowen next year, Mr. Rees confirmed that the Enniskillen Drama Festival, which takes place annually at the theatre in early March, will go ahead as planned in its usual venue for 2024.

“The Drama Festival is running from March 1 to 9 in 2024. We’re all up and running, ready and excited for next year,” he said.