THEATRE and musical supremo Andrew Lloyd Webber witnessed a topping out ceremony for a town's new arts complex.

Lord Lloyd Webber, owner of seven theatres and composer of shows such as Cats, Evita, and The Phantom Of The Opera, was at Inverclyde's new Arts Guild as it marked a key stage in plans to create a modern theatre in the area to replace the historic Greenock Arts Guild.

The £9million theatre complex, to be called the Beacon Arts Centre, is being built on the Greenock waterfront and will become a focus for the performing arts in the area and also provide jobs.

Lord Lloyd Webber's wife Madeleine, a Trustee of the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation, which donated £100,000 to the project, said: "The Foundation is passionate about young people and giving opportunities to them within the arts.

"The Youth Theatre project at the Beacon Arts Centre aims to provide the young people in this area an outlet for self expression and to encourage life skills using theatre practices.

"Through our donation, we hope to make a positive difference in Inverclyde that will be felt for generations to come."

Elliott McKelvie, chairman of Greenock Arts Guild Ltd, said: "The topping out of the Beacon marks a hugely important step in a project that has taken eight years to develop.

"We are now at the final stages of fulfilling our vision for a vibrant, inclusive focal point for arts activities in Inverclyde and beyond.

"Our website,, re-launching in early March, will contain further images, videos and fundraising information about the Beacon as we approach the opening this summer."

Council leader Stephen McCabe said: "This a significant milestone in the construction of our new community arts centre.

"The Beacon is set to be just that – a shining light for the arts in Inverclyde and beyond, and to become a focal point for excellence on Greenock's waterfront."

The building will have two performing spaces – a main auditorium (500 seats) with full flytower and trap facilities, a black box studio theatre (130 seats) and ancillary rehearsal rooms. It will also have a cafe/bar.

Michael Graham, executive chairman of the contractor Graham Construction, said: "We have been working hard to create the steel and concrete frame, which features an ensemble of balconies and a unique upper circle.

"The stage area forms part of the tower and the curtains will be pulled straight upwards to the tallest point of the building, at 20 metres.

"Once completed, the theatre will be entirely enclosed in glass, with certain elevations being internally illuminated to create a striking facade.

"The Beacon will be a spectacular venue."