Following the completion of the first phase of the rehabilitation of the National Arts Theatre, which was led by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the entertainment arena is set to host several creative and tourism events, one of which is the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the federal government conference, THISDAY has learnt.
The UNWTO and federal government conference on “Linking Tourism, Culture and the Creative Industries: Pathways to Recovery and Inclusive Development”, is scheduled to commence from November 14 to16, 2022 in Lagos.
Governor of the CBN, Mr. Godwin Emefiele, represented by his deputy, Mrs Aishah Ahmad while commenting on the completion of the first phase, said the facility will help the country to create a world-class creative sector at home.
In 2020, the apex bank and the Bankers Committee collectively agreed to invest over N65 billion to rehabilitate the National Theatre and return it to its former glory, working closely with the Federal Ministry of Information and Culture, the Ministry of Youth and Sports Development and the Lagos State Government.
Over the last 18 months, a complex rehabilitation project had painstakingly rebuilt the heart of the gigantic entertainment facility – with more than 70 historic sculptures, mosaics, resin, brass and wood friezes, and stained glass artworks forming part of the original design. Each of the historic sculptures, it was learnt, required to be protected during renovation, or in some cases, removed and restored before being replaced.
However, when the second phase of the rehabilitation works is completed in March 2023, the National Theatre would be restored to its original glory and a 5,000-seater main amphitheatre comparable to anything else in the world will sit at its heart, flanked by two world-class cinema rooms, banquet halls, and a library.
But THISDAY further gathered that the project is not just about restoring a building but also creating an ecosystem of support for the creative sector, as part of what is called the Lagos Creative & Entertainment Centre (LC&EC).
Moreover, the theatre itself will be at the heart of a larger development of hubs focused on supporting emerging talent in the music, film, fashion, and IT sectors.
The creative hubs are built on portions of land within the 44-hectare site.
According to sources from the Bankers’ Committee, the first phase known as the “Signature Cluster,” consists of a building each for fashion, music, film, and IT and support facilities, including a 250-car park block, a police station, a fire station, and a visitors’ Welcome Centre, which will house commercial and retail facilities, administration and management offices.
CBN Governor, Emefiele, while commenting on the completion of the first phase, said the facility would help the country to create a world-class creative sector at home.
He said: “The National Theatre is one of the symbols of Nigeria’s culture and heritage and must be at the heart of our work to enhance and celebrate the creative industries.
“The completion of phase 1 is a demonstration of the outcomes we can achieve when we work together as the public and private sectors. The central bank has been able to bring together the diverse set of stakeholders required to ensure that this project is delivered, from the Bankers Committee to the Ministries of Information and Culture, and Youth and Sports Development and the Lagos State Government.”
Emefiele further thanked President Muhammadu Buhari for his “overwhelming support that has made the restoration of this national iconic symbol of arts and culture a reality.
“Together, we are not just restoring the National Theatre to its former glory, but we are establishing the wider foundations on which we can build a truly world-class creative sector, at home,” Emefiele added.
In December 2021, Emefiele expressed the hope that the resuscitation of the National Arts Theatre would be completed by 2023.
He was also confident that beginning in 2023, the annual Arise Fashion exhibition would be held within the main bowl of the National Arts Theatre in Lagos.
He said it was costing the bankers’ committee almost $100 million to “resuscitate and revamp the National Arts theatre.”
Speaking at the Arise Fashion Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, last year, the CBN governor said the creative industry remained an important and large industry in Nigeria with a revenue projection of about $4.5 billion annually, adding that the federal government was doing everything possible to support the creative sector.
He added that the monetary policy on its part was committed to supporting the growth of the industry.
Emefiele said, “It is not just about resuscitating it, but by the side of the National Arts Theatre, what we do intend to do is to develop four creative hubs around the theatre.
“As you know, the National Art Center can sit in a particular gathering of at least 7,500 people.
“And we do hope that from 2023 and onwards we will begin to see these fashion shows being held around the premises of the National Arts Theatre,” Emefiele reportedly added.
James Emejo in Abuja