Theatres at Risk Register 2019 announced

The Theatres Trust announces the Theatres at Risk Register for 2019.

Theatres at Risk Register
Alexandra Palace Theatre interior. Photo: Lloyd Winters

Now in its 12th year, the Theatres at Risk Register highlights and supports theatres under threat of closure, redevelopment or demolition across the UK, calling the public’s attention to these buildings, their challenges, opportunities and those who fight for them. This year, 31 theatres appear on this vitally important register with three new additions – Theatr Ardudwy, Tottenham Place Theatre and The Intimate Theatre in Palmers Green.

Every theatre on the register has strong architectural merit or cultural heritage and, crucially, the potential to be returned to its original performance use and be a real asset to its community. Despite the time, money and energy needed to bring these theatres back into use, theatres can be central to placemaking, giving communities a real sense of cohesion and belonging. A theatre building can provide the centrepiece that attracts visitors to a town and encourages residents to spend their money locally. The London Borough of Waltham Forest’s research has shown that the Walthamstow Granada could play a key role in the revival of the local area, estimating that once renovated the site could add between £34m and £52m to the local economy over a ten-year period.

Theatres Trust, the national advisory body for theatres, who compile the register, is calling for more collaborative creative partnerships between local authorities, theatre owners and operators and community groups to protect the theatres on the list. They are also asking for more sustainable funding to prevent further theatres becoming ‘at risk’ in the future.

Theatres can be at risk for a variety of reasons, including loss of funding, lack of maintenance, or threat from a neighbouring development. As well as disused buildings, the list includes working theatres with capital, funding or operational issues and venues currently open for special events but where significant restoration work or fundraising still needs to be done. Sadly, more than half of the buildings on this year’s register are empty and it is undeniable that these cases are harder to return to use. But it is not impossible; one such recent success story is Alexandra Palace Theatre which has been removed from the Theatres at Risk register and is the venue for this year’s launch event – after a six-year restoration project, it reopened in December after an 80-year hiatus. The Cryer in Sutton has also been removed from the list as it is due to reopen as an arts centre.

Significant progress has been made with many of the remaining theatres including Bradford Odeon, Century Theatre, King’s Theatre Kirkcaldy and Leith Theatre. Burnley Empire’s situation is improving having been bought by its local campaign group, with the support of the Theatres Trust and other partners including the National Trust, TheatreSearch and Burnley Council. Local groups of tireless supporters can be key to securing brighter futures for theatres. The Intimate Theatre, new to this year’s register, is helped by a newly formed campaign group, supported by The Theatres Trust, who have already managed to get the site listed as an Asset of Community Value and are lobbying hard to ensure that the theatre is retained.

The theatres appearing on the 2019 register are as follows: Brighton Hippodrome,
Theatre Royal Margate, Victoria Pavilion/Winter Gardens, Morecambe, Dudley Hippodrome, Victoria Theatre, Salford, Spilsby Theatre, Streatham Hill Theatre, London, Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech NEW, Winter Gardens Pavilion, Blackpool, Burnley Empire, Plymouth Palace, Hulme Hippodrome, Century Theatre, Coalville, Walthamstow Granada, London, Leith Theatre, King’s Theatre, Dundee, The Broadway, Peterborough, Tottenham Palace Theatre, London NEW, Conwy Civic Hall, Mechanics’ Institute, Swindon, Intimate Theatre, London NEW, Kings Theatre, Kirkcaldy, Tameside Hippodrome, Ashton-under-Lyne, North Pier Pavilion, Blackpool, Garston Empire, Liverpool, Doncaster Grand, Swansea Palace, Derby Hippodrome, Odeon/New Victoria, Bradford, Theatre Royal, Hyde and Theatre Royal, Manchester.

Seven theatres have been removed since the 2018 register for a mixture of positive and negative reasons or where the circumstances have changed. These are Alexandra Place Theatre,, The Cryer, Hulme Playhouse, Llandudno Grand, The Secombe Theatre, Workington Opera House and The Coronet Theatre. Londoner’s are familiar with the sad story of The Cornet which, despite much lobbying and over 4,000 people signing an online petition to save the venue, is due for imminent demolition as part of the redevelopment of the Elephant and Castle shopping centre site for housing, retail and leisure use.

Theatres Trust works with theatres and local authorities to provide advice and find creative solutions in order to keep or restore buildings such as those on the register in use. Since the Register’s launch, of the 175 theatres that have been included on the list, 44% are now operating as live performance venues, being refurbished or being replaced by another suitable performance space. Notable successes have included Wilton’s Music Hall, Theatre Royal Portsmouth, Kings Theatre Southsea, Aberdeen Tivoli, Shanklin Theatre Isle of Wight and Stockport Plaza.

To prevent more theatres becoming ‘at risk’ the industry body cautions that arts funders and policymakers need to recognise the value of existing active theatre buildings and make a commitment to sustained investment in capital projects.

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