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An Untapped Opportunity

"Thirty-one theatres are at risk in the UK today,” says The Theatres Trust, launching its Theatre Buildings at Risk Register 2015.

The Theatres Trust is announcing its 2015 Register at the newly reopened Wilton’s Music Hall in east London on the 17 September. This Grade II* theatre, which was once on the Theatre Buildings at Risk Register, has now been beautifully restored.

More than half the theatres on the Register are located in the north of England, and Wales, and lie unused and in a poor state of repair – despite growing recognition that theatres and culture can make a significant contribution to growth in the region as part of the Northern Powerhouse.

Many of the theatres on the Register are also listed buildings and could be restored and reopened as theatres and make a real contribution to local cultural life and productivity. One such theatre is the former Bradford Odeon. There is now genuine recognition of the potential of this building to be restored and used as a music venue.

Mhora Samuel, director of The Theatres Trust, says: “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 re-animated if those theatres were to be fully reopened. Whilst these buildings sit empty and underused all they represent is an untapped opportunity.”

In the south of England the Grade II* former Brighton Hippodrome remains top of Register. The Hippodrome has been closed since 2007. With investment it could have a future as a thriving Brighton performance venue and be a focal point for the regeneration of Brighton’s old town.

Also on the Register is the Coronet in Southwark in London which is currently used as a music and entertainment venue. It is now under a very real threat of demolition due to the Elephant and Castle Town Centre regeneration proposals.

The 2015 Register includes 31 buildings across England and Wales, with two additions, and four removals.

The two new theatres on the Register are the Granada Theatre in Walthamstow, London and Spilsby Theatre in Lincolnshire. Their future as performance venues is at risk. Soho Theatre is trying to secure performance use of the Granada after its sale to a pub chain, and Spilsby Theatre is in the process of setting up a new Trust which needs to raise funds urgently to keep the auditorium open.

Four theatres were removed from this year’s Register. The first three, Felixstowe’s Spa Pavilion, The Cryer and The Secombe in Sutton, have been saved. Recognising the value these theatres bring to their local communities, their local authority owners have transferred these assets, and their future as theatres has been secured.

The fourth theatre removed from the Register is the Curzon Cinema/Redstack Playhouse in Bexhill-on-Sea. Despite huge efforts by its local community to save it as a cultural venue, and listing it as an Asset of Community Value, the Playhouse was sold by its owners to the pub chain, JD Wetherspoon.

18th September 2015

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