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Woolwich theatre fights back against demolition plans

The Collaborative Orchestra playing at Woolwich Grand Theatre as part of the We Love Woolwich Festival
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Woolwich Grand Theatre in south-east London is offering free performance space for professional groups next year as part of a campaign to prevent the historic venue from being demolished.

The theatre, which reopened in 2012 after being used as a nightclub, is under threat of closure. Its owner plans to build flats on the site.

Tenant Woolwich Grand Theatre Ltd hopes to convince Greenwich Council that there is an audience for a year-round programme in order to stop the venue’s demolition.

It will provide the theatre’s 60-seat studio space to companies at no cost for the first six months of 2014 in a bid to expand its season of work and bring in new audiences.

The venue currently screens films and hosts concerts and events in its 1,000-capacity main hall. Meanwhile, its 60-person space upstairs is used for the performance of plays, live music, comedy and cabaret.

Theatre director Adrian Green said he hoped to see the arts centre saved from redevelopment so that he could establish the smaller space as a fringe venue.

“We’re trying to appeal to other performers to come to Woolwich and help save the building rather than using their money to hire other theatres,” said Green.

He said local people were living in “gated communities” and did not go out for entertainment in the evening, but he hoped this could change if the theatre were able to provide a consistent programme.

Henry Irving opened the first heatre built at the site – the Grand Theatre and Opera House – in 1900. It was demolished in 1939 and rebuilt in 1955 as a cinema before later becoming a nightclub. The venue was reopened by Green and other members of a community group in 2012.

Nigel Ostime, founder of Whiteroom Architecture, which has created designs for the development, said: “The theatre doesn’t appear to be a commercially viable proposition. As such, when you’ve got a big building that has a lot of maintenance needs, it requires money breathed into it to make it work properly. Sadly, there isn’t the money to do that.”

He added: “We are proposing to demolish the building to create homes for people. There is a great need for housing in London, and this would help to fill that gap.”

A planning permission application for the redevelopment has been submitted to Greenwich Council and a decision is expected by February.


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