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


  1. Oh no! We had just booked the Main Hall at Margate Winter Gardens for next years Annual Margate Ukulele Festival, what are we going to do now? There is no where like Margate Winter Gardens!!!!!
    Any suggestions please?

      • Goodness Peter. How would the poor needy consultants survive if public money were diverted from the essential task of developing the umpteenth plan for what might be done into actually doing something to sustain our decaying heritage and infrastructure? This is the twenty first century; get real. Only half a million to develop a plan? Grab it before the price goes up.

    • Feasibility study and further feasibility assessments. £££
      Consultancy services and further cs’s ???
      Ongoing and future fees ???

      Back scratching.

      Why was the outstanding work not carried out when the venues were covid closed ? Yes it would have been possible others will disagree but they are not spending their own money.

      Hey tdc, just do the best for your ratepayers. IanD will have an idea.

    • As part of the Dalby Square heritage grant scheme, applicants had to use “professional” heritage consultants/architects. They took 12% plus vat of the contract value of works applicants undertook. In one case the “professional” produced a contract tender document that cost £3500 plus vat , this was charged to 4 different applicants but was essentially identical in each case. Much of it was cut a paste from documents available online. Then when works commenced they pretty much ignored what they’d written and let contractors do as they wished. Scale that upto a building the size of the wintergardens , add in the reports on potential use, identifying customer bases , public consultations etc etc and i’d be surprised if 500k covers it .
      The building has been allowed to rot pretty much from the day it was built by succesive councils , back of envelope guess would be 20 million to get it back to what it should be. 2.5 million of that disapearing in professional fees. Not forgetting of course about 3 million in vat. So a quarter of the spend achieves nothing physically on site.

  2. More fishy dealings going on, funny how they always find money for this and yet can’t find a penny to clean up Thanet. Wait for it there be selling before to long at another loss to the tax payer and yet will get funding to waste and divert to others pockets

  3. If I have got this right, TDC have loaned up to £1.5m of taxpayers money to Your Leisure and then torpedoed their future finances and therefore their ability to repay this sum by stopping events at two of their venues ?

    I’m no business strategy expert but this doesn’t seem like the most sensible thing for TDC to have done to safeguard their loan.

  4. Radical idea. Knock it down and build a venue fit for purpose rathwr than pump thousands into the Winter Gardens. Canterbury did it, why cannot we?

    • Indeed… and how much money was wasted on refurbishing the cinema and restaurant that has subsequently been allowed to rot again?

    • The grant money needs to be match funded , TDC has no money and you’d hope that in light of the Dreamland fiasco that the bodies that hand out grant funding would be rather dubious as to TDC’s ability to carry out projects successfully.
      I’m still of the view that there are undisclosed financial liabilities (either in terms of the real cost of those already known or others sitting on the books but currently the subject of convenient accounting). Which means that TDC has no ability to fund the years of neglect it has allowed to accrue on its portfolio nor the ability to borrow. As the cost of the feasability study shows doing anything in the public sector is extortionately expensive.
      In the absence of grant funding to save the Winter Gardens in particular , i’d guess that TDC would quite happily sell it off.

  5. I’m trying to understand this “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….Your Leisure will honour all tickets and events up to these dates at both venues”. I have paid £82 for two tickets in October 2022. Does this mean they won’t honour the price of the tickets because it is after August 14th?

    • I think they mean honour as in the shows will take place. If your ticket is Oct 2022 I’d suggest enquiring about a refund

  6. The big spenders in the town – you know the ones – they seem to get preferential treatment from TDC when it comes to buying up stuff will get first dibs.

    • I have looked up the definition of the word scummy – dirty, unpleasant or nasty. Well, I suppose you can say what you like when you hide behind made up names like yours. What a tbing to say.

  7. The Winter Gardens has gone the way of so many pre war buildings being to expensive to maintain and hardly fit for purpose in today’s modern age. I do not see many large touring London shows for example performing in Winter Gardens and I doubt they ever will. The dear Theatre Royal must be kept and maintained as a great asset for Margates heritage. Solution I feel, sell off Winter Gardens site which will fetch a huge amount of money and invest in large new theatre with 1500 seats Westwood area. This new theatre would cater for all, be centrally located with adequate car parking/public transport links and bring in investment in skilled jobs etc. Canterbury did it with Marlowe but using existing site. The only problem will be TDC involvement and would monies raised be wisely spent! This I doubt very much given their track record in forty years I have lived in Thanet. My wife’s mobility problems and her experiences at Winter Gardens means her Theatre trips are only tot Marlowe now and she has twenty four pre booked and paid for., monies which would have supported a suitable Thanet theatre.

    • Again, The Winter Gardens is Grade 2 listed, so can’t be demolished.

      Pre-pandemic, The Winter Gardens was used a lot (I should know, I worked there for 4 years). Not just music, comedy and stage shows, but also many private functions, craft fairs, beer festivals, etc. The Marlowe is a great building, but lacks the versatility of The Winter Gardens.

      • As for The Theatre Royal, that would make a nice Wetherspoons if that’s what it takes to save it (as opposed to the bingo hall and carpet shop it has been in the past). Sadly I don’t think two Margate theatres are viable, and keeping The Winter Gardens is far more important.

      • Peter – Marlowe is much much better if you are disabled. The quality and variety of shows is obviously far superior to those presented at Winter Gardens. I did not realise Winter Gardens was Grade 2 listed which obviously kicks my observation/view into touch.

        • I think you will find the Marlowe Theatre is run by an independent charitable trust, The Marlowe Trust.
          Why do so many local people run down local venues. Do your homework and read up about all the really famous acts the Winter Gardens has hosted over the years.
          It should have received funding many years ago and as Peter has said was very busy with all sorts of different entertainment.
          I certainly would not want to see it raised to the ground.
          There are covenants protecting buildings all along the sea facing areas in Cliftonville. So I dont think a block of flats would get planning consent.
          It needs millions to bring it back to it’s former glory sadly.

          • Ella – I am fully aware that Marlowe is now run as a charitable trust, a recent transfer from Canterbury City Council ownership. I am also stating that disabled access is far far better at Marlowe and many other Theatres. I am also more than aware of FAMOUS ACTS FROM THE PAST. My point was it’s never been kept upgraded and improved and it’s no good living on the past.I am not attacking local venues, just being honest as too why my wife spends her money on Marlowe Theatre productions. Like Peter, we are fond of 60’s /70’s acts but if it’s difficult to access and uncomfortable, I am afraid we give it a miss.

        • I guess it depends on type of shows you like. I tend to watch old acts from the 60s and 70s, and The Winter Gardens has the edge – The Marlowe is great for stage productions though (saw War Horse there, amazing!!).

  8. Future scenario……Margate Winter Gardens closes whilst its ‘future is examined’…..damp will keep getting in…..ceilings collapse…..weeds grow inside…..floors collapse…..pigeons roost… fall out….landslides …….finally demolished 2024

    • Spot on – that’s the way TDC works, neglect, demolish and look at the bottom line…forget heritage and character. Who knows, we might get another Dreamland like fiasco?

  9. Even pre Covid, Your Leisure was in financial strife and the Winter Gardens was losing money hands over fist.

    If there are a hardcore of local supporters who want it to stay open and see lots of shows there can I suggest they raise ticket prices so those people pay more and the rest of the local taxpayers don’t have to subsidise something we will never use ?

      • From memory I think I have been in the Winter Gardens once in the last decade or so. Clearly if it was that well supported it would be thriving, bringing in the cash and we wouldn’t all be commenting on this news article 😉

        • We’ve just come out of a pandemic, before that it seemed to be thriving OK, despite in need of a makeover.

          What annoys me is that a venue that hosts concerts, shows, graduations, markets and other events that are used by a high percentage of Thanet’s population is in danger of closing, yet an art gallery gets unlimited funding, even having all of it’s electrics updated just 10 years after it was built.

          • Only four people commenting on this
            article have used their full name.
            The rest have hidden behind silly names. Doesn’t that say a lot about a person.

    • ‘the rest of the local taxpayers don’t have to subsidise something we will never use ?’

      It will boost the local economy. I have known people to travel from outside the area to The Winter Gardens when certain acts have been on. These same people probably then go on to spend money elsewhere either before or after the acts they’ve travelled to see.

      So whilst not everyone in Thanet may use/visit The Winter Gardens or The Theatre Royal, they benefit from the money spent in their local areas. We all want our local area to be thriving don’t we? This is why I’m loving Dreamland at the moment and I love to see our local beaches mentioned, the Old Town Margate mentioned and such. I rarely ever visit these places but them being open and doing well, benefits the town.

  10. Stick by my original comment. Grade 2 or not. Last time i was in there was two years back and an employee was chattung to me about the structural condition of the building. Add to the fact its a dance venue, and back the sixties the general public were less forgiving on the seating and view of the stage when used for shows. If you feel desperate to keep this crumbling memory of a bygone era then at least lets build a new venue fit for the 21st century.

  11. If the wintergardens should close its doors it would be a big blow for margate I’ve work there Behind the bar and enjoyed ever min of it so if it was to close were would people go for a good night our like club tropicana that’s that’s fun night out

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