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Northern venues at risk of closure, warns Theatres Trust

The Victoria Theatre in Salford is at the top of the Theatres at Risk Register for a second consecutive year The Victoria Theatre in Salford is at the top of the Theatres at Risk Register for a second consecutive year
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The Theatres Trust has warned that the number of northern venues included in its latest Theatres at Risk Register betrays a lack of investment in buildings in the region.

Its annual register this year comprises 31 theatres including six in Manchester and the surrounding area and a further nine elsewhere in the north of England.

Theatres Trust director Mhora Samuel: “Many theatres at risk in the north are in areas of multiple deprivation and have struggled to find investment, as the north has not seen the same levels of economic growth as in the south.”

The majority of theatres in the north that make the list have featured for a number of years and are considered by the Theatres Trust to face significant risk after receiving little or no investment. The Theatre Royal in Hyde, near Manchester, topped the list in 2012 and remains on the register with a risk value of seven. The maximum risk value attached to theatres is nine, which is used for the three venues considered to be most at risk as part of the register.

Topping the list for the second consecutive year are the Brighton Hippodrome, Plymouth Palace Theatre and the Victoria Theatre in Salford.

More than half of the theatres in the register can be found in the north of England or Wales, venues which the Theatres Trust said lay “unused and in a poor state of repair”.

The trust added that this was in spite of a “growing recognition that theatres and culture can make a significant contribution to growth in the region as part of the northern powerhouse”.

The venues listed on the Theatres at Risk Register. Photo: The Theatres Trust
The venues listed on the Theatres at Risk Register. Graphic: The Theatres Trust

The body’s concerns follow a significant drive by the government and HM Treasury to lend support to a ‘northern powerhouse’ in England, which includes committing £79 million to a new theatre in Manchester.

The 31-strong list, which lists the most endangered theatre buildings in England and Wales, features two fewer venues than last year, while only two theatres have joined the list for 2015.

The grade II-listed Spilsby Theatre in Lincolnshire has been added after the charitable trust which owned the venue closed this year. The other new addition, the Granada Theatre in Walthamstow, east London, was added with concerns that if the auditorium is not brought back into use there is a risk the venue will be untenable for future performance.

Soho Theatre has been involved in lengthy discussions with the theatre’s new owners, the Antic Pub Group – which bought the Granada in November 2014 – about shared use of the theatre.

Launching the register, director of the Theatres Trust Mhora Samuel said: “Financial investment in theatres at risk, by the Heritage Lottery Fund and other sources of regeneration funding, has shown that theatres such as Wilton’s Music Hall and Alexandra Palace can come back to life. Imagine how areas around the Winter Gardens in Morecambe, Dudley Hippodrome, Swansea Palace, Brighton Hippodrome and other theatres on our Theatre Buildings at Risk Register 2015 could be reanimated if those theatres were to be fully reopened.

“While these buildings sit empty and underused all they represent is an untapped opportunity.”

The Curzon Cinema, also known as the Redstack Playhouse, in Bexhill-on-Sea, east Sussex, is the only theatre to have been lost following the 2014 register. The venue was sold to pub chain JD Wetherspoon in November 2014.

Three venues have been removed from the list after their futures were secured. The Secombe Theatre and the Charles Cryer Studio Theatre in Sutton were added to the list in 2014 after the council announced plans to close the venues as part of budget cuts. They have both now been taken over by the newly formed Sutton Theatres Trust and renamed the Secombe and the Cryer under one umbrella as Sutton Theatres.

The Spa Pavilion in Felixstowe is set to reopen in the autumn after being closed since the council stopped subsidising its running costs in January 2013. The venue has since been purchased by an external group set up to save the theatre.

The Theatre Buildings at Risk Register was launched at the newly renovated Wilton’s Music Hall, a venue which featured from the list’s inception in 2007 until 2012, when it was removed after securing refurbishment funding.

Five most at risk:

  • Brighton Hippodrome
  • Plymouth Palace
  • Victoria Theatre, Salford
  • Hulme Hippodrome, Manchester
  • Coronet, Southwark, London

Off the list:

  • Charles Cryer Studio theatre and workshop,Sutton, London (future secured)
  • Secombe Theatre, Sutton, London (future secured)
  • Spa Pavilion, Felixstowe (future secured)
  • Curzon Cinema/Redstack Playhouse, Bexhill-on-Sea (lost)

New to the list:

  • Granada Theatre, Walthamstow, London
  • Spilsby Theatre, Spilsby, Lincolnshire

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