Forty-nine theatre buildings across the UK are at real risk of being lost unless owners recognise they are responsible for community assets and work with trusts and local communities to secure their future, says The Theatres Trust.
Publishing its 2012 Theatre Buildings At Risk Register (TBAR) today, changes since 2011 highlight how a lack of care and investment leaves theatres particularly vulnerable to neglect whilst opportunities to harness the social and cultural value of theatres are being lost. It also shows how local champions, with the support of councils, grant making trusts and Lottery distributors are providing a new lease of life for theatres at risk.
The passing of the Localism Act in November 2011 and its emphasis on social well-being means local authorities now have to prepare lists of assets of community value, which include cultural interests such as theatres. The Trust’s hope is that this will encourage more owners of theatres at risk to realise that their theatres are assets – for the community and the country.
Mhora Samuel, Director of The Theatres Trust said, “There’s good news that overall the number of buildings on our Theatre Buildings At Risk Register has come down from 56 last year to 49 this year. And we’re pleased some have found the funds and support they so desperately needed, such as Wilton’s and the Gaiety in Ayr. However we’ve also lost some important venues and I’m very concerned about the future of the 17 theatres we’ve added to the Register including the Theatre Royal in Margate, Darlington Arts Centre and Croydon Warehouse.”
Twenty-four theatres have been removed from the 2011 Register including the Grade II* Wilton’s Music Hall in London and State Cinema in Grays, the Category B Ayr Gaiety in Scotland and the unlisted Conwy Civic Hall in Wales. Wilton’s has received funds from SITA Trust and the Heritage Lottery Fund which mean the capital works needed to secure the building’s future can now proceed. The State, Grays, received planning permission for a mixed use leisure and retail development in January this year. Ciwb Conwy Cube, the Community Interest Company formed to take on the Conwy Civic Hall has been able to take over the running of the venue with some funding from its local council and it has reopened. And the Ayr Gaiety has secured vital funding from the Scottish Government and South Ayrshire Council to enable it to appoint a development officer, undertake an initial programme of capital works, and reopen later this year.
However, some of those lost from the 2011 Register have been demolished including the Waltham Forest Theatre in Lloyd Park (demolished August 2011); lost through change of use, including the Grade II Bedford Civic; or have been granted Listed Building Consent for demolition such as the Brighton Astoria.
The top theatres at risk in the 2012 Register in England include the Brighton Hippodrome (Grade II*), Margate Theatre Royal (Grade II*) (new 2012), Morecambe Winter Gardens (Grade II*), Plymouth Palace (Grade II*), Alexandra Palace (Grade II), Burnley Empire (Grade II), Derby Hippodrome (Grade II), Doncaster Grand (Grade II), Hulme Hippodrome (Grade II), Hulme Playhouse (Grade II), Hyde Theatre Royal (Grade II), Tameside Hippodrome (Grade II), The Regent, Great Yarmouth (Grade II) (new 2012), Victoria, Salford (Grade II) (new 2012), Farnham Redgrave (not listed) and Scarborough Futurist (not listed).
Though not listed, Darlington Arts Centre, the Precinct Theatre, Islington, and Croydon Warehouse have been added to the 2012 Register, as redevelopment plans are affecting the provision of their replacement. Darlington Borough Council closed the Arts Centre in 2012 and plans to develop a new arts centre are yet to be finalised. The Precinct Theatre in Islington is yet to find a new home as a result of the redevelopment of the Packington Estate, and it is unclear what impact the loss of the Croydon Warehouse, which went into receivership earlier this year, will have for its planned replacement.
In Scotland, the five theatres on the 2012 Register include the Britannia Panopticon in Glasgow (Category A), Leith Theatre in Edinburgh (Category B) (new 2012), the Odeon in Edinburgh (Category A), the Old Athenaeum, Glasgow (Category A) (new 2012), and the Tivoli in Aberdeen (Category A). Theatres removed from the 2011 Register are the Ramshorn in Glasgow (Category A), now under the care of the University of Strathclyde; the Gaiety in Ayr (Category B) which has secured funding and investment; the Stockbridge Theatre in Edinburgh (Category B) which is likely to receive planning permission for change of use to residential and restaurant use; and the Gateway in Edinburgh (Category C(s)) which has permission for demolition.
In Wales, the six theatres on the 2012 Register are the Merthyr Tydfill Theatre Royal (Grade II) (new 2012), Pontypridd Town Hall (Grade II), Swansea Palace (Grade II), Theatre Elli (Grade II), (new 2012) the De Valance Pavilion in Tenby (not listed) and Corwen Pavilion (not listed). Theatres removed from the 2011 Register include the Conwy Civic Hall (not listed) which is now being operated by a local CIC; Treorchy Parc Hall, currently mothballed; Theatr Harlech (not listed) which has remained open; and the Theatre Royal, Barry (not listed), which has received planning permission for demolition and residential redevelopment.
Whilst the Trust welcomes the new Y Ffwrnes (The Furnace) in Llaneli, Theatr Elli is due to close in July and its future is uncertain. The new Merthyr Tydfil Town Hall redevelopment in association with Chapter Arts in Cardiff is also welcome, however it highlights the plight of the existing Theatre Royal, another asset for Merthyr.
The 2012 Theatre Buildings at Risk Register can be searched online. More information on each theatre is provided through a link to the Trust’s online Theatres Database, which includes around 2,000 existing theatre buildings. Each of the top entries has a downloadable information sheet.