Thanet council chiefs will meet with representatives from London’s Soho Theatre tomorrow (October 2) to discuss the future of the Theatre Royal in Margate.
Soho Theatre expressed an interest in taking on the venue after Thanet council advertised for a new operator in 2014.
The grade-II listed Theatre Royal had financial difficulties in 2012 but was taken on by Thanet Leisureforce (now Your Leisure) in a temporary arrangement subsidised by Thanet council and Kent County Council.
Thanet council advertised for the new operator in 2014. The authority offered a long lease or freehold interest in the theatre, and adjacent buildings at 16a and 19 Hawley Square, to any organisation committed to protecting the historical and cultural significance of the buildings and ensuring the continued operation of the theatre.
Negotiations were taking place with Soho Theatre following Cabinet agreement to dispose of the properties during a meeting in January 2015.
A marketing exercise had been undertaken for disposal and the preferred bidder selected.
Heads of terms were agreed subject to contract and an announcement had been expected in the early part of this year.
However that announcement has yet to come despite the Theatres Trust saying ‘innovative works were due to be carried out in its ‘buildings at risk’ report in February.
The Theatre Trust said: “The council has identified a theatre operator as a preferred partner to develop proposals for refurbishment and redevelopment. The proposed works include new front of house facilities, improved access arrangements and extended back of house facilities.
“The proposals are innovative in that they create a sustainable model for a charitably run theatre subsidised by a social enterprise hotel, restaurant and bar in the neighbouring building, removing the need for ongoing revenue subsidy.
“However, substantial capital funding will be required to deliver the capital works project that will be necessary to support the sustainable operation of Theatre Royal Margate.”
The Theatre Royal was added to the Theatre Buildings at Risk register, which is compiled by the Theatres Trust. It lists theatres that are under threat of closure or demolition, have lost funding, lack maintenance, or threatened by neighbouring development.
The theatres are rated on the type of risk they face, the quality and significance of the building, whether this is theatrical or architectural, and its importance to its community.
According to a Thanet council report at the time of the decision to dispose of the theatre and the adjacent buildings, retaining the sites were estimated to cost in excess of £100,000 per year.
Thanet council’s chief executive Madeline Homer confirmed a meeting with Soho Theatre is taking place.
She said: “We are meeting with representatives of Soho Theatre tomorrow. The discussion will be focused on how we move forward.
“Thanet District Council is committed to retaining the Theatre Royal as a theatre and will be looking at options which will deliver this.”
Read here: A tale of Margate’s historic Theatre Royal