Soho Theatre urged to submit fresh funding application for Theatre Royal takeover bid

Theatre Royal Photo Sheradon Dublin

Representatives from London’s Soho Theatre who had been hoping to take on the Theatre Royal in Margate may submit a fresh bid for funding.

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.

In 2014 Thanet council 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.

Theatre Royal Margate

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.

But a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for cash to carry out extensive renovation works at the theatre was turned down.

Soho Theatre has now been advised a fresh submission ‘would be welcomed,’ but it appears the organisation is no longer currently in the running to take over the Margate venue.

Photo Sheradon Dublin

A Thanet council spokesman said: “The Theatre Royal is an important part of Margate’s and UK theatre’s heritage and we would love to see restoration of the site and the adjacent property at 19 Hawley Square take place.

“Last year’s bid made by the Soho Theatre to the Heritage Lottery Fund, under their Heritage Enterprise Programme was not successful, however there has been advice from the HLF that a future submission of the proposals would be welcomed.

“While there are no current plans for Soho Theatre to take on the management of the theatre, everyone involved can confirm their continuing support for the Theatre Royal.”

The Theatre Royal was this year added to the Theatre Buildings at Risk register, which is compiled by the Theatres Trust and lists theatres that are under threat of closure or demolition, have lost funding, lack maintenance, or threatened by neighbouring development.

Courtesy Theatre Royal Margate Archive

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.

Proposals for the Theatre Royal works included new front of house facilities, improved access arrangements and extended back of house facilities.

A social enterprise hotel, restaurant and bar in the neighbouring building were also proposed.

The Theatre Trust said: “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.”

Read here: A tale of Margate’s historic Theatre Royal