Margate’s Theatre Royal on most endangered list, says Theatres Trust
Margate’s Theatre Royal has been named the UK’s second-most endangered theatre, as part of a list that sees Brighton Hippodrome claim the top spot for the fourth year running.
The grade-II listed Theatre Royal is a new entry this year to the Theatres Trust Theatre Buildings at Risk Register, which includes 35 venues at risk of permanent closure.
Three theatres – the Futurist in Scarborough, the Pier Pavilion in Colwyn Bay and the Royal Victoria Hall in Southborough – have been removed from the list, because they have been or are to be demolished or dismantled. No theatres have been saved since the previous register in 2016.
Margate’s Theatre Royal ran into financial difficulties in 2012, and the building appeared briefly on the Theatres at Risk register. Thanet Leisureforce was appointed by the council as a new operator to take over from a trust that had been running the venue.
However, this was only a temporary arrangement which was subsidised by Thanet Council and Kent County Council. In 2014 Thanet District Council undertook a viability appraisal which looked at ways of making the theatre financially sustainable in the long term, and identified a scheme to re-orientate the entrance of the theatre and create new front of house facilities, a bar space and disabled access.
The council has identified a theatre operator as a preferred partner to develop proposals for refurbishment and redevelopment. However, the theatre has been placed on the register because “substantial capital funding” will be required to deliver the project to support the theatre’s future operation.
Other venues listed in the top five theatres at risk include the Victoria Pavilion/Winter Gardens in Morecambe, the Dudley Hippodrome and the Victoria Theatre in Salford.
There is only one other new entry to the register; the Streatham Hill Theatre in Lambeth, London.
Five most at risk:
Theatre Royal, Margate
Victoria Pavilion/Winter Gardens, Morecambe
Victoria Theatre, Salford
Theatre Royal, Margate
Streatham Hill Theatre, London Borough of Lambeth
Pier Pavilion, Colwyn Bay
Royal Victoria Hall, Southborough, Kent
Of all the theatres listed, 29 are based in the regions – including three in Scotland and four in Wales, while six are in London.
Theatres which remain on the register from the previous year include the Charles Cryer Studio and Secombe Theatre in Sutton, London, along with the Plymouth Palace – which has dropped 12 places – and the Broadway in Peterborough.
Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, said: “The 2018 Register clearly demonstrates those venues that receive support from their local authority are much more likely to take an assured path towards an ongoing life as a performance venue.
“These are challenging times for local authorities, as they are under tight financial pressures, but our evidence shows that through collaboration and creative partnerships, these venues are opportunities for local authorities to support and stimulate their local economy, provide a focus for local pride and act as an important community resource.”
Comedian and television presenter Dara O’Briain, who is a Theatres Trust trustee, added: “They are not on this list because they are beautiful ruins; they’re here because they are just a few good decisions from living again; of taking their place at the heart of their communities, of entertaining further generations.”
O’Briain urged local authorities to start thinking of the theatre buildings as “opportunities” and to work with local campaign groups and experienced theatre operators to save them. He also encouraged members of the public to continue campaigning to preserve their local theatres.