Twenty years ago this summer we had the builders in... and how! 

The first major refurbishment of Poole Arts Centre since it opened in 1978 was underway and 18 months later, once the dust had settled, the building reopened as Lighthouse, Poole’s Centre for the Arts and was declared fit “for at least another 20 years”. 

Incredibly, given the extent of the work undertaken, the building was only closed to the public for a couple of months over the summers of 2001 and 2002 – and the box office remained open throughout. 

Then, as now, art was at the heart of the plan and artist Jane McDonald was brought in to ensure visual art would remain an intrinsic part of the fabric of the building. She identified the work of textiles designer Janet Stoyel who had developed a method of decorating metallic fabrics by using soundwaves and lasers, creating colours and patterns without the use of dyes, chemicals of wet treatments. 

The lighting for the building’s new façade (pictured) was designed by Cornish light artist Peter Freeman whose light sculptures using neon, fibre optics and floodlights can be seen on public buildings and spaces across the South West. His aim was to convey a sense of live performance and celebration through intense animated colour that would express the spirit, and function of the building. 

The £8.5 million transformation attracted a RIBA Award, the Oscars of the architecture world. 

As for being fit for at least another 20 years, following a subsequent refresh in 2016 we reckon we’re holding up pretty well! 


• We love hearing your memories of Lighthouse and, before that, Poole Arts Centre. To share your stories about memorable shows, fantastic people, fun times and unforgettable days and night, email

Published 12 July 2021