Margate Town Deal team working on project timeline and Lottery bid for Theatre Royal

Theatre Royal Margate

A timeline for the future of Margate’s Theatre Royal is being created by the Town Deal project team.

Last year Thanet council announced that both the Theatre Royal and Margate Winter Gardens would be shut this year while the future of both venues is examined. The Theatre Royal closed its doors on April 28 and the Winter Gardens will follow suit on August 14.

The historic Theatre Royal has been earmarked for £2million from the £22.2m Margate Town Deal fund to help with renovation works and the business case summary for this funding has been submitted to government,

However, the Margate Town Deal webpage says: “The specialist work required for the renovation project on the theatre and any auxiliary spaces, will require millions of pounds. The Margate Town Deal funding will cover a significant proportion of the works needed, therefore making further private or public sector investment more viable.”

A bid for more cash will be made to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Theatre Royal Photo Sheradon Dublin

The aim is to “reimagine the Theatre Royal to ensure a sustainable future,” and to “ensure more people, from a diverse range of backgrounds have an involvement in or enjoyment of creative production.”

The proposals say the project will improve the local economy, including the night time economy, expand/diversify the visitor offer/experience, and create jobs and training opportunities.

A new operator will be sought as well as a coalition of interested parties to enable the theatre to thrive.

The Theatre Royal was bought by Thanet council as ‘owner of last resort’ in 2007. The building was shut for a six month refurb programme and all staff were made redundant. It was then leased back to the Margate Theatre Royal Trust on a peppercorn rent until 2012 when the Trust went into administration. Your Leisure took the site on in what was supposed to be an interim measure but had been running it up until the closure last month. All staff were made redundant and they have formed Phoenix Community Events.

In 2014 Thanet council offered a long lease or freehold interest in the theatre, and adjacent buildings at 16a and 19 Hawley Square and there was an expression of interest from Soho Theatre. However, this bid fell through.

Project team work

A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Bookings paused at the Theatre Royal on Thursday 28 April, following a decision announced in August 2021 which was made in order to facilitate a project to identify a more viable, long term direction for the venue.

“£2m of Margate Town Deal funding has been allocated to a renovation project to safeguard the theatre, and will include an initial scoping to identify the required works.

“The Margate Town Deal project team has been working with stakeholders on the development of the Business Case, with the Summary Document having now been submitted to the government. The submission of the Summary Document should unlock the funding.

“The Town Deal investment includes support for capital improvement works, finding a new operator, ongoing stakeholder engagement work and a funding submission to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

“Through engagement with stakeholders, including organisations like the Theatres Trust, the Town Deal project team is developing a project plan, which includes the timeline for going out to market to identify an operator and the submission of a National Lottery Heritage Fund bid.”

Margate Winter Gardens Photo Mike Nichols

For Margate Winter Gardens £300,000 is earmarked, again under the Margate Town Deal, to carry out a project delivery plan  which would include site surveys, a business case and market testing.

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

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  1. Yet more money wasted on lame ducks. This money was supposed to help Thanet meet the challenges of 21st century visitors. Instead we’re throwing good money after bad on attractions that have not been viable sunce the 1970s. Meanwhile we don’t even have decent public toilets for visitors.

    • Councils nationally are NOT legally bound to supply Public Toilets This is a regular misconception by the intellectually challenged (or Council bashers).

      • Legal requirement or not, there is a general expecatation for the provision of toilet facilities for visitors, being as one of thanets prime attractions are its beaches that expectation and need is even greater.

        • Even where there is a stutory duty TDC are adept at circumventing their duties, when it comes to substandard housing they’ll say they can’t show there are issues until it’s been assessed under housing health safety rating system HHSRS , but they don’t have the respurces to assess.

          The problem with litter is not it’s collection but the amount people discard, when it comes to weed control the populist /oportunistic choice of not using weed killer means that’s another lost cause.

      • How are we ‘intellectually challenged’ in questioning the way public money is allocated?
        Councils are not legally bound to provide numerous services which nonetheless might be expected in an attractive seaside resort.

  2. “ensure more people, from a diverse range of backgrounds have an involvement in or enjoyment of creative production.””…

    I guess we won’t be seeing Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown or Jim Davidson then!

  3. Am I the only person who gets fed up with everything relating to diverse backgrounds.
    Why can’t it just read ‘something for all’

    I am amazed that they are doing something for our theatres, although nothing much for the Winter Gardens and not just looking after their own pet projects.

    • No James, you are far from alone.
      Unfortunately ‘something for all’ will not attract grants.
      Funding from so many sources has been hijacked by well-organised groups, often inter-related, who have learned to play the system.
      They are almost all art or minority related; they usually claim they are working for the community, when in fact their offerings are of scant benefit to the public at large; and anyone daring to criticise is dismissed as a right-wing Philistine or worse.

      • Mike you are absolutely
        ‘spot on’
        It has got to the point, where one has to be careful of what they are saying, for fear of being classed as anything ending in ‘ist’
        This has all happened within the last couple of years and is really quite frightening.
        I just don’t know how far it is going to go.
        Personally, I have had enough of it all.
        It would be so much better, if all these grants handed out were used for all the general public. Not just art projects.
        Things that would be beneficial to the whole community, young and old.

      • Indeed – ”something for all” does not cut the mustard.

        Funded projects have to contain elements specifically related to a supposedly under represented minority – be they a black artist, a transvestite or whatever.

        It seems that something that stands or falls purely on a matter public demand or financial viability is no longer the deciding factor.

  4. As far as I am aware from a previous article, two of the serving members on the MTDB will benefit with grants for their group/business.

    Is this not a conflict of interest?

    Maybe somebody can enlighten me?
    I have asked this question previously.

    • The previous chair of the board was head of the local East Kent college group and the funding includes £6m for them.

      Not suggesting anything untoward but it certainly isn’t a good look given all the other allegations of conflicts of interest.

  5. These venues are empty most of the time!
    Where can we go for Saturday morning cinema for kids, that instant stand up culture experience I often describe as the Covent Garden experience, wedding shows, antiques fairs, seasonal fairs, children’s dance shows, wrestling events, indoor fun for kids, tea rooms,. I am sure we can all think of lots more uses.unless the ideas come fast and furiously the winter gardens will shut and that will be that!

    • The Winter Gardens of course hosts pretty much all of those events you mentioned and much more – or at least it did when I worked there 2007-2011!. Yes, The Theatre Royal is a lovely old building, but it is the Winter Gardens that is far more versatile and should be given priority in saving. Meanwhile, I’m off tomorrow to Folkestone’s Leas Cliff Hall (to see the 83-year-young Marty Wilde), something I’ll no doubt be doing a lot more in the future.

      • Peter, you will love the Marty Wilde show.
        Saw it at the Orchard Theatre, Dartford, 3 years ago, when he was celebrating his
        ’80th’ birthday.
        Over the many years of excellent indoor entertainment at the Winter Gardens, I akso saw him there.

          • The show was fantastic! Can’t believe the voice and energy that Marty Wilde still has, and all the others were excellent too. It was the first time I’ve been to The Leas Cliff Hall, so much nicer than the Margate theatres.

          • Glad you enjoyed it Peter.
            It really is a fantastic
            I have never been to that theatre but have heard it is very good.
            You should have a read of the article about the Queens Platinum Jubilee.

    • Sharon Goodyer

      Sunday May 8th, 3 p.m
      the Winter Gardens,
      Page Mason Scool of Dance and Drama.
      Children and adults will enjoy it.

  6. In the over 50 years that I have lived in Thanet, with the exception of Saturday morning cinema, which was held at Dreamland cinema, the Winter Gardens hosted all the other events you have mentioned.
    Unfortunately, through many, many years of neglect by the council, sadly, it is now in need of millions being spent in it.
    What do suggest is the answer with your long list of requests?

  7. The footdragging at TDC is already evident – they’re drawing up a time line? What have they been doing since the decision to close taken last August?
    This and several other recent announcements stink of councillors trying to manufacture some good news ready for next May’s elections – don’t be fooled and be ready to hold them to account.

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