Theatre Royal and Margate Winter Gardens bookings ‘put on hold’ in 2022 as plans are made for future of the venues

The future for the Winter Gardens and Theatre Royal

Bookings for Theatre Royal and the Winter Gardens in Margate will be put on hold in 2022 as the future of both venues is examined.

Bookings are scheduled to pause at both Margate entertainment venues, with Your Leisure’s annual rolling lease at Theatre Royal ceasing on 28 April 2022 and a pause in Winter Gardens bookings from August 14, 2022, although Your Leisure retains its lease which runs until 2024.

A statement from Thanet council says: “The impact of COVID-19 has been profound, not just on the Margate venues but on the leisure industry as a whole, as a result of enforced closures and subsequent restrictions. Of 944 theatre venues, producers and businesses, 95% are reported to be worse off financially due to the pandemic.

“Although entertainment venues were able to reopen to the public from June 21 this year, income has been substantially impacted and both the Theatre Royal and Winter Gardens buildings are in need of significant refurbishment works. Like many attractions across the country, they now need to secure a more sustainable future.”

Photo Frank Leppard

Margate Town Deal funding of £2 million has been allocated for a renovation project for the Theatre Royal and the business case for this project will start in September 2021. The council will be looking for an operator, project partner and making a funding submission to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Photo Frank Leppard

Margate Town Deal funding of £500,000 was included within the Town Deal final submission of projects to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) to create a fully developed plan for the Winter Gardens. This allocation is not yet confirmed.

This would include a detailed project delivery plan with public and private sector engagement. Specialist services would be needed to help test the market and identify the opportunities available. Specialist architects would also be used to scope out the required works and develop a fully costed scheme. The Town Deal Board is waiting for confirmation from MHCLG regarding this allocation of funding.

Your Leisure will honour all tickets and events up to these dates at both venues.

Thanet District Council owns the freehold of the Theatre Royal and the Winter Gardens in Margate. Both venues are operated by Your Leisure, a leisure trust with charitable status. The Winter Gardens is operated on a 25 year lease and the Theatre Royal on an annual basis.

In February’s council budget it was agreed that Thanet council would pay Your Leisure’s management fee for the year up front and paid an additional £160k to the trust. It also been agreed to loan Your Leisure between £700k-£1.5m; provide additional funding of £230k plus VAT to the Winter Gardens to ensure that it could reopen and operate from October 2021 by being able to replace and relocate the boilers. The action was taken as Your Leisure faced a substantial shortfall in its income as a result of Covid,

Thanet council expected to agree cash lifeline for theatre and sports centre operators Your Leisure