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Trust set up to save Norfolk theatre where Shakespeare performed

King's Lynn Arts Centre
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Campaigners have set up a trust that will fight to save a historic theatre space in Norfolk from closure.

St George’s Guildhall, part of the King’s Lynn Arts Centre, claims to be the only surviving venue in which Shakespeare performed and is the UK’s oldest and largest remaining medieval guildhall.

The building is owned by the National Trust and leased by the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.

In June, local residents expressed concern over the future of the venue, due to the theatre showing signs of deterioration.

An anonymous philanthropist came forward to with proposals to revitalise the listed buildings and create an art gallery of “national and international significance”. However, this sparked fears that the theatre would close, with the council “having effectively issued a notice of closure for the theatre from December 2019”.

The new Shakespeare’s Guildhall Trust will work towards continuing the use of St George’s Guildhall as a theatre.

It has set up meetings with the council in January and will subsequently present a business plan to the local authority to use the theatre as a self-sustaining venue.

Trustees of the new organisation include actor and comedian Tim FitzHigham and music director and composer Michael Hankinson.

FitzHigham told The Stage: “The new trust has been formed following increasing concern over the closure of the theatre.

“St George’s Guildhall has a unique cultural history and there’s no other theatre like it. It’s not just another medium-size touring venue – it’s the only theatre left where Shakespeare performed and if we put that at the heart of our thinking suddenly it gets really exciting and there are so many more possibilities for its future.”

Theatres Trust theatre adviser Tom Stickland, said: “The underuse of this much loved and historic theatre has been a concern for local residents in recent years and progress towards reopening this theatre will be welcomed by the community.

“The Theatres Trust has been in discussions with supporters of this building and will continue to work with them to help secure its future.”

The council did not respond to a request for comment.

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