Campaign mounted to save Salford theatre

A campaign has been launched to save Salford’s Victoria Theatre from being bought by property developers.

The Grade II listed building recently appeared on the Theatres Trust’s Theatre Buildings at Risk Register and is up for sale for £275,000.

David Dewsnip, a production technician at the University of Salford, who started the Help Save Salford’s Victoria Theatre campaign, said: “We want to restore the Victoria Theatre to its former glory and open it up as a community base.

“The first time I saw inside the building, about seven weeks ago when it came up for sale, I knew I had to do something to try tosave it.”

Dewsnip said that although the theatre had been used as a venue for professional shows in the past, the campaign group hoped it would be used primarily as a community resource for amateur theatre companies, workshops and performance and backstage training.

He said he wanted to bring in local apprentices from colleges to help with the restoration work so that the project could also be used as a training ground for students learning plastering, electric fitting and plumbing.

About 50 people attended the campaign group’s first public meeting earlier this month, including theatre professionals, youth workers and members of the community.

A Facebook group, called Help Save Salford Victoria Theatre, has also been set up, and has attracted nearly 2,000 members.

Campaign leaders now plan to set up a steering committee to form a charity and buy the theatre. They estimate it will be a five or six-year project costing between £4 million and £5 million.

Allen Christey, an electrical engineer who also runs an amateur operetta company, is joint leader of the campaign. He was involved in a failed attempt in 1971 to save the theatre from being turned into a bingo hall.

He said: “The difference with the campaign this time is that the building is empty. We are not attempting to open it as a fully operating professional theatre and there are heritage trusts and funds that we can tap into. If we run the theatre on volunteers then it may become an affordable space for both professional and amateur groups. The venue is only one mile from Manchester city centre and yet it’s been left behind other theatres.”

The building was opened in 1899 as a theatre and then used primarily as a cinema until the 1950s. In 1973 it became a bingo hall and operated under different companies until it closed in 2008.

Mhora Samuel, director of the Theatres Trust, said: “The Salford Victoria is an important theatre and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to save it for its community. Time is of the essence as the building is up for sale. We’re actively supporting local efforts to purchase it. By working together the community has a great chance to bring this theatre back to life.”

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