Theatres Trust has recently launched its latest Theatres at Risk Register, which features 38 at-risk theatres with three having been removed and no new additions.
The charity aims to protect theatres and the register highlights theatres across the UK that are under threat of closure, redevelopment or severe decay, but have the potential to be revived.
Theatres Trust has removed three theatres from the list as they are no longer considered a risk due to advocacy, planning and viability advice from the charity, along with support from local authorities, theatre operators and community groups.
Century Theatre, a travelling theatre that toured the country during the post-war years, is more secure in its permanent home in Coalville, Leicestershire and has now been removed from the list. It had been threatened by redevelopment and had been added to the register in 2014.
Walthamstow Granada, a Grade II listed cine-variety theatre had been empty and deteriorating until it was purchased by Waltham Forest Council in 2019. Soho Theatre Company was brought on board as the operator.
The theatre underwent a major refurbishment and is set to reopen later this year as Soho Theatre Walthamstow.
The third building to be removed from the register is Swansea Palace Theatre, which has been on the at-risk list since it started in 2006. While it will not be reopening as a theatre, the location will be reopening as office space with the ability to accommodate small-scale performances and events.
The plans from Swansea Council, funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Welsh Government via its Transforming Towns programme, mean that the building’s historic features are protected. It also means that the changes can be reversed in the future.
Musician, actor and Theatres Trust board member Gary Kemp said: “It is fantastic to see three significant theatres being removed from the Theatres at Risk list, as a result of campaigning and advice from Theatres Trust as well as the dedication of councils and local communities. The Theatres at Risk list is about finding the best use for buildings within their communities, so they can be enjoyed for many years to come, and these three theatres are shining examples of that.”
While this year’s list still comprises 38 buildings, there is some good news for the likes of Spilsby Sessions House, which is a key project in a successful Levelling Up bid. Morecambe Winter Gardens (pictured) will also benefit from this fund alongside the neighbouring Eden Project North.
Levelling Up is an initiative from the UK Government to reduce imbalances between different areas and social groups in the UK.
Further progress is also being made for other theatres remaining on the list, including Burnley Empire, Leith Theatre and Theatre Royal Margate. However, these venues still face the same challenges felt across the sector, particularly growing construction work costs and scarcity of funding, the fallout from the pandemic, cost-of-living crisis and the energy crisis.
Despite the good news for some, there are theatres on the list that are in a perilous situation. Dudley Hippodrome and the Intimate Theatre in Enfield are under threat due to development plans – which will lead to their demolition – going ahead despite strong opposition.
Dudley Hippodrome is on a site that has been approved for a new university centre while the Intimate Theatre will be redeveloped to build a new parish hall and residential accommodation.
Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan said: “As the true impact of rising construction and energy costs, cost-of-living crisis and squeezed council budgets becomes known, the challenge to secure the futures of Theatres at Risk will be more difficult than ever and there is a real fear that more operational theatres may become ‘at risk’.
“However, despite the difficulties, local support and collaborative working still pays off and the opportunities these buildings offer their communities are immense.”
Theatres Trust has also recently launched Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities, which is a new support and training programme aimed at helping venues in risk and those in danger of becoming at risk.
The three-year project has been made possible by a grant from The National Lottery Heritage Funding, and funding from the Pilgrim Trust and Swire Charitable Trust.