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.
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.”
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.