Plans unveiled for new Sir Ken Dodd centre

Multi-million pound plans have been unveiled to create a lasting legacy to Liverpool legend Sir Ken Dodd.

Liverpool’s Royal Court, working with The Comedy Trust and The Sir Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation, have submitted to Liverpool Council plans for a brand new £15m building dedicated to Liverpool’s rich comedy history, known as The Sir Ken Dodd Happiness Centre. If approved, building work could begin in 2025 with the doors set to open in 2026.

The four-storey building would become a permanent home to The Sir Ken Dodd archive and Happiness exhibition currently showing at National Museum Liverpool, and would celebrate the life and career of the Scouse comedian while also offering spaces for comedy-based workshops, talks and performances. The centre will be operated by Liverpool’s Royal Court as an extension of the Royal Court Theatre.

It would become the latest addition to Sir Ken’s legacy at the theatre, with a series of murals unveiled to celebrate the comedian in 2020.

Subject to sign off by the city council’s planning officials, the centre would be built on the land adjacent to the Royal Court on Roe Street, on the site currently occupied by Courtyard Bar & Kitchen. While construction took place Courtyard would relocate and, once completed, the centre would house a new 100-seat restaurant.

The Happiness Centre would celebrate all forms of comedy and humour and provide opportunities for all to take part in a wide range of programmes, workshops and sessions with comedy, humour, health and wellbeing at their heart. The centre will also explore how comedy and humour defines Liverpudlians, why the city is known worldwide for its wit and humour and how we can use laughter and humour to make us feel better and improve wellbeing.

The £15m project is designed by Stirling Prize winning architects Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM), who were also behind the extensive refurbishment of Liverpool’s Royal Court. Funding for the project is coming from a number of sources, primarily the Sir Ken Dodd Charitable Trust.

As well as being a home for comedy in the city, the building will join on to the theatre, creating new dressing rooms and office space that will allow the staging of larger and more ambitious works in the future.

Gillian Miller, chief executive of Liverpool’s Royal Court said, “Liverpool is renowned all around the world for the wit and humour of its people. It is about time that the city had a building dedicated to celebrating that fact. Sir Ken was Liverpool’s best-loved entertainer and one of the UK’s greatest-ever comedians. 

“He was a chart-topping singer, talented actor and accomplished ventriloquist, but his true passion was his natural gift for making us all laugh. We are delighted to be working with the Sir Ken Dodd Charitable Foundation on this project that will form a part of such an important legacy.”

Sir Ken’s wife, Lady Anne, added, “I couldn’t be happier to support the building of a Sir Ken Dodd Happiness Centre. It was his lifelong dream to build a place where Comedy is taken seriously, and he would be delighted to know that he was part of a building in the centre of Liverpool that leaves every visitor with a smile on their face.”

Images: Artist’s impressions of the new centre

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