Theatres Trust, which has worked tirelessly to help theatres during the Covid-19 pandemic, has announcing its annual Theatres at Risk Register 2021.
Thirty-one theatres appear on the list with one new addition: Co-op Music Hall in Ramsbottom, near Bury, a rare and important surviving musical hall from the 1870s which in now under threat of redevelopment for housing.
Although there have been devastating job losses due to the pandemic, relatively few theatre operators have ceased trading and fortunately none of the buildings left empty look to be in imminent danger, so there are no other new additions.
The Register supports theatres under threat of demolition, redevelopment or permanent closure across the UK, and calls the public’s attention to these buildings, their challenges, opportunities and those who fight for them.
Every theatre on the list has strong architectural or cultural heritage and, crucially, the potential to be returned to performance use and be a real asset to its community.
Theatres Trust has seen an emerging trend during the pandemic where vacant theatre buildings are sold off by private owners. The second part of 2020 saw Brighton Hippodrome, Garston Empire, Salford Victoria and Theatr Ardudwy all put up for sale.
Fortunately, in the case of Brighton Hippodrome, the Grade II-listed theatre that has topped the list for a number of years, the new owner has started to carry out much needed urgent repair works on the building.
Grade II-listed music hall Hulme Hippodrome is also being sold at auction next week, put up for sale by its current owner Gilbert Deya Ministries. A campaign group has been formed to save the building, which includes Oli Wilson, son of Factory Records founder Tony Wilson, which has ambitions to turn the building into a museum celebrating Manchester’s Musical Heritage.
Elsewhere, positive steps have been made by several theatres, particularly those receiving additional support through the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme, which provides grants and in-depth advice for the crucial early stages of revival projects.
Derby Hippodrome is a Grade II-listed variety theatre built in 1914 and a rare surviving example from the era when buildings were constructed for both live theatre and cinema. Thanks to funding from the Capacity Building Programme, consultants have been appointed to undertake a viability study in order to renovate and re- open this important space.
Grade II-listed Burnley Empire, the town’s last surviving Victorian theatre, received funding in 2019 from the Capacity Building Programme and has continued to make steady progress towards returning to community use. Building works have started and it has been included in Burnley’s High Streets Heritage Action Zone.
Musician and actor Gary Kemp, who is a trustee for Theatres Trust, said:
“Every building on the Theatres at Risk list is part of the UK’s cultural and social heritage, but each also holds a special position in their community and with the right support could once more be central to a sense of local pride.
Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan added: “This past year has shown that communities value places where they can come together and that audiences miss live performances. While the theatre sector still has challenging days ahead, Theatres Trust believes that theatre will come back stronger than ever and that each building on the Theatres at Risk list has real potential to be a valuable asset to its community, to bring much needed footfall to its town centre and spark regeneration of its area as part of the recovery post-Covid.”
Theatres on the list such as Morecambe Winter Gardens, Swindon Mechanics’ Institute and Walthamstow Granada made progress due to a collaborative approach whereby campaign groups, key stakeholders and local authorities recognise the community and economic value and potential of their local asset.
Where this is not recognised the impact is substantial, Dudley Hippodrome is included as a site for redevelopment in a council bid for building a new university hub, and Enfield Council has approved a planning application that will see the Intimate Theatre in Palmers Green demolished – the Theatres Trust has escalated the case to the Secretary of State, who has the power to overrule the local authority decision.
The theatres appearing on the 2021 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
- Groundlings Theatre, Portsea
- Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech
- Winter Gardens Pavilion, Blackpool
- Burnley Empire
- Plymouth Palace
- Hulme Hippodrome
- Century Theatre, Coalville
- Walthamstow Granada, London
- Leith Theatre
- King’s Theatre, Dundee
- Tottenham Palace Theatre, London
- Conwy Civic Hall
- Mechanics’ Institute, Swindon
- Intimate Theatre, London
- Co-op Music Hall, Ramsbottom (NEW)
- Kings Theatre, Kirkcaldy
- Tameside Hippodrome, Ashton-under-Lyne
- North Pier Pavilion, Blackpool
- Garston Empire, Liverpool
- Doncaster Grand
- Swansea Palace
- Derby Hippodrome
- Theatre Royal, Hyde
- Theatre Royal, Manchester