Call to join demonstration over future of Margate Winter Gardens

What does the future hold for Margate Winter Gardens?

Performance groups, businesses and community leaders in Margate are calling for people to join a demonstration next month over the future of the town’s Winter Gardens theatre.

The venue, which is owned by Thanet council, will shut from August 14 and it is planned to use Margate Town Deal funding of £300,000 to create a fully developed plan for the site.

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 feasibility study will not get under way until the closure takes effect.

Margate Winter Gardens Photo Frank Leppard

Initially operator Your Leisure was to retain the lease which ran until 2024 but agreement was then made for an early surrender.

On July 14 a Thanet council meeting at 7pm will include discussion of a petition raised by Margate Central ward councillors Helen Whitehead and Rob Yates, together with fellow members of Labour’s shadow cabinet, asking for a public meeting for TDC cabinet members and officers to explain what is happening, why and share more details with the public.

The demonstration is due to take place outside Thanet council’s offices in Cecil Square prior to the meeting, from 6pm,

Organiser Jack Packman said: “The Margate Winter Gardens mean a great deal to people in many different ways. It is essential that the venue continues to operate. For many local dance schools, performing arts organisations and national companies this is a venue where they can produce their passions and with the shutting of the Theatre Royal, the Winter Gardens is the only large-scale venue where this can happen. It is important to keep theatre and shows alive in Thanet!

“We are encouraging those who attend the demonstration to wear their best show/theatre costumes and to put on a show outside the TDC offices, although costumes are not compulsory.

“The invitation is open to all ages, young to old, as the Winter Gardens is a home for everybody.”

Those backing the demonstration include Olby’s, Margate Operatic Society, Thanet Virtual High Street, Silvers, Off The Hook productions and business owner/photographer Frank Leppard.

Councillors Yates, Duckworth, Keen and Scobie want a public meeting

Speaking previously about the public meeting Cllr Yates said: “The Margate Winter Gardens have been serving the Kent community continually for over 110 years, except for a break during World War Two when bomb damage was repaired. It is an essential part of the county’s cultural heritage and residents have a right to know the strategy for its future.”

Your Leisure’s annual rolling lease at Theatre Royal also ceased on 28 April. Staff at Margate’s Theatre Royal have formed a community events company in a bid to make sure shows continue and keep the venue open until its planned refurbishment under the £22.2million Town Deal fund.

Phoenix Community Events CIC aims to make sure shows continue to come to Margate and keep the historic theatre open until its refurbishment date – which has not yet been set.

Cllr Reece Pugh, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Economic Development previously  said: “It’s important that we find a long term, viable future for the Winter Gardens rather than kicking the can down the road. I would like to reassure residents that no decisions about the future of the Winter Gardens have yet been made.

“We are exploring new and exciting opportunities to reinvigorate this underused heritage asset as an entertainment venue. I attended a meeting of the Overview & Scrutiny Panel and presented further information on the Cabinet decision for the Winter Gardens.

“The entire process has been and will continue to be completely open and transparent and at the appropriate time will welcome the chance to engage with local residents and stakeholders as part of the ongoing process.”

A petition calling for the public meeting has 2416 signatures and can be found at https://www.change.org/p/petition-for-a-public-meeting-on-the-future-of-winter-gardens

53 Comments

  1. “I would like to reassure residents that no decisions about the future of the Winter Gardens have yet been made…I attended a meeting of the Overview & Scrutiny Panel and presented further information on the Cabinet decision for the Winter Gardens.”
    “no decisions” or “Cabinet decision”? Which is it?

  2. From an FOI response I received today, £6m of the £22.2m going to the Margate Town Deal, will be spent refurbishing 2 derelict buildings for the Margate Creative Land Trust to create 3,000m2 of new/renovated office space, “assisting 30 potential entrepreneurs to be enterprise ready”. “The Council has not reviewed its assets against the needs to the creative industries. The Margate Creative Land Trust is a separate entity to Thanet District Council.”
    All the above tells me the owners of 2 derelict buildings, not Winter Gardens or Theatre Royal, can shortly look forward to a windfall from tax payers, whilst our neglected but not yet beyond repair heritage assets cannot.

  3. Let the Management of the Marlowe Theatre in Canterbury takeover the running of the Winter Gardens they actually know what they are doing and put excellent shows on. The £300,000 will just be wasted on the so-called “experts”. Come to think of it how much does it cost to rent the winter gardens? I could put a show on there once a week. “Open Mike night” “Ann summers “ “Dream boys” “dream girls” “Gay nights” “ Nude Mud wrestling” “bisexual night” to name just a few rent it to me I would make a lot of money and generate a lot of money the local economy just a case of using imagination which the current
    management lacks with their village mentality.

    • A great many shows still sell out at Margate Winter Gardens. On the other hand, I attended a matinee show at The Marlowe just two days ago, and there couldn’t have been more than 50 tickets sold.

      Trust me, the people who put shows on in Margate know what they’re doing.

  4. If it is £300k just for the report, what will it cost to carry out the renewals repairs and redecorations bringing the building back to its former glory. Any advances on £22m.

    Any profits that the Winter Gardens made should have been reinvested in the building the same with the Theatre Royal instead it appears it was squandered away.

    Look what happened to the Pavilion in Westgate. Sold off to an individual who “Allegedly” purchased it as a community asset and which has remained shut ever since. Why shut all, because the new owner made an application for funding to carry our repairs and refurbishments. Potentially because the new owner couldn’t afford it themselves. The application being subsequently refused.

    This was a good business on lease now left to rot as have all the theatres in Thanet that TDC could not manage themselves for the benefit of all residents.

  5. Turn it like Marlowe theatre, have panto from November-January, give west shows down like Marlowe do. O I forgot Thanet council waste money on a report. Like they do all over Thanet.

  6. Watch out more flats on there way…Thanet council does not care about the arts or supporting the local community look at The Granville cinema after such great efforts and local support the council would rather sell it on the open market and such a disappointment to the arts and music theatre industry …they have not even bothered to use that funding to repair the beautiful lift on the top of Kent place.. oh did they sell that of ???

    • Apropos the Granville: if local support could be measured in terms of audience numbers at films, very few cared twopence about it.
      You’ve heard of “use it or lose it”?.
      Too few people used it.

    • P

      Quote “…Thanet council does not care about the arts ”

      I am sorry but you where have you been the last 10 or so years ?

      Art is all we hear about in thanet, grant for this arty thing, grant after grand for the art community.

      Art has had more than it’s fair share of public taxes. Didnt TDC put 2 million onto the TC ?

      TDC only support the arts ! How you have the neve to say TDC doesnt support the art community is bonkers.

        • No disrespect but the likes of Marty Wilde ,Joe Brown and other 60’s has beens aren’t what the majority audience in Thanet want to see ,you can go and see them at smaller venues like Kings Hall ,Herne Bay if you want .
          Like I’ve said before if you get big bands like Blur,Stereophonics, ,Kasabian , The Specials playing at the Winter Gardens ( which they have ) they usually all sell out in no time , so let’s be a bit more positive and ambitious of who we want to attract to play here .
          Noel Gallagher played a “ warm up tour“ concert at Dreamland this week , why did he prefer to play there instead of at Margate Winter Gardens ?
          Btw Re: Canterbury Marlowe Theatre , they’re aiming at a different audience dynamic to Margate plus often I think the tickets are very expensive for shows / concerts there , and that’s from someone who regularly see gigs in London at venues of all different sizes .

          • I was comparing other “arts”. Whenever I’ve been to the annual “Sixties Gold” concerts at The Winter Gardens they’ve always been sell outs or near, and Marty Wilde at Leas Cliff Hall last month probably attracted more people in one evening than the heavilly-subsidised Turner Contemporary do in a fortnight. Joe Brown also sold out The Marlowe when I saw him in 2020.

            The ONLY reason acts as big as Kasabian and Stereophonics appeared at the Winter Gardens at the peak of their fame is due to the negotiating skills of the entertainments manager, who persuaded them to use Margate as the “warm up” before they played big festivals (and forgetting personal tastes, the two nights they had of JLS were the most exciting shows I saw when working there, with fainting fans being carried out in scenes reminiscent of Beatlemania!).

          • I should also add that acts that attract smaller audience did well at the Theatre Royal – in recent years I’ve seen Steeleye Span, Gerry and The Pacemakers, Jack Dee, Mark Steel and several other play sell out shows there. Closing that venue is another one of Margate’s losses – and Herne Bay/Folkestone/Canterbury’s gain.

          • I admire the sentiment but why oh why has it taken this long before any action to be taken. Close the stable door when the horse has bolted comes to mind.

          • Well I thought it would help. The council are happily allowing building on every piece of land thanet has! Do i wouldn’t put it past them to ignore it, thinking that there was no one alive that remembered it. Shame they were wrong!!
            Kate

        • The Queen Hall at the Winter Gardens will be forever in my heart for staging a concert by Danny and the Juniors – albeit without the original Danny.

    • I think Peter that often we have a different taste in music ,which is perfectly fine as music is a personal.thing but I’d have loved to have seen the Everly Brothers in concert ,and in Margate too !
      Where they as good as you had expected ?
      Was this the same UK tour when they played Royal Albert Hall of which they recorded that show ?
      Btw . I thought of your comment from the other day regarding having glam rock acts on the Queens jubilee celebratory concert , as believe it or not I picked up a brilliant best of glam rock 2Cd set for a bargain price of a quid today in a charity shop in Broadstairs .
      You may already have this album in your cd collection .. if not I recommend it !
      Let’s just say …..it’s poptastic ! Lol

      • No, the reunion concert was in 1983, this was 11 years later but just as brilliant! Also saw The Crickets (minus Buddy Holly of course) there in 1989 with Marty Wilde supporting, another fabulous night. One thing I think most of us in Thanet can agree on is that the Winter Gdns holds some very special memories indeed.

    • I totally agree with you about the Everley Bros and Duane Eddy 1994 one nighter. It seems that no recording was ever made of the show, I’ve enquited via local and Kent based radio with luck. No iPhones in those days!

  7. We are going to need HUGE spaces this winter for people to socialise in and to keep warm and to eat well. We might even offer classes and making opportunities.We cannot let anyone take this resource away from us.

  8. Stop living in the past and embrace the new generation of entertainment!

    Seaside towns of the yesteryear have long gone anc if we want to entice tourists then rebuild and refresh what we have.

    The audience of the bygone years are dying away and being replaced by people who want more than a rundown theatre that’s offers no value to their families holiday.

    Yesterday has gone

    Tomorrow is only a day away!!

    Live it
    Love it
    Embrace it!

    Unfortunately Thanet has been held back by the dreamers and that’s the truth!

    Look at those who protest

    1 Elderly
    2 lefty wokes
    3 their offspring.

  9. Oh no Oh no!! ‘Elderly, lefty woke, their offspring’ …. whose offspring, as a matter of interest? ‘Cos if you count anybody’s offspring, elderly people and lefty wokes, that’s a hell of a lot of people. And, er, what’s wrong with being elderly? As it happens, elderly people come to seaside towns in large numbers and spend their money.
    FYI, a lot of people visit Margate for the fabulous beaches and because it’s an interesting kettle of fish with intriguing venues such as the Winter Gardens.
    Went to see ‘I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue’ being recorded there a while back. The place was packed to the rafters. Possibly some elderly, some lefty wokes, all were offspring of someone. Disgraceful bunch, great evening.

    • I saw that too! Another wonderful night that attracted people of all ages, genders and political persuasions.

      I’m assuming that Ono prefers pretentious “art” events that attracts 20 people.

  10. I think that any public consultation would be a nostalgiafest, wallowing in bygone days.
    The Wintergardens, the Granville and so on were built in a different era when families flocked to the UK seaside for their holidays rather than jetting abroad.
    The local authority is faced with resolving what to do with these hugely expensive white elephants, given a limited supply of public money at their disposal.

    • How is it a “white elephant” if it still hosts sell-out concerts? Not just “oldie” concerts either (the latest X-Factor winners are hardly nostalgia acts!).

      Stick to what you know, Ms. Stein.

      • Were the Winter Gardens to be financially self-sustaining, there wouldn’t be an issue. The place would be an asset, not a liability.
        If the former, fine, there’s nothing to discuss; if the latter, then TDC has to consider how appropriate it is to support a minor interest facility with tax-payers’ money.

        • People would still use all the public toilets that Thanet once had, but the lack of maintenance/repair means that many have closed, ditto The Lido pool, etc. It’s the same with the theatres – they could have sell-out shows 5 nights a week all year round, but it still wouldn’t make enough money to finance decades of neglect. NONE of these things were/are “minor interest” buildings – unlike art galleries, for example.

    • Sharon Goodyer – Winter Gardens is suffering from a myriad of problems due to lack of care/maintenance over the years. No Political party/elected council has shown any interest until now. Any use of this building will incur costs. Who pays? It is well past it’s use by date but being listed I understand cannot be disposed of. It is not a friendly building if you are disabled. I could not see touring West End shows performing in this venue as I would suspect facilities would not meet their requirements. Marlowe Theatre is purpose built and hence meets most criteria for modern shows. My wife is now wheel chair bound and attends Marlowe around two dozen times a year. The Winter Gardens was too difficult for and therefore she stopped her patronage. I would sell it off and build an all purpose Theatre building on lines of Marlowe. I would strongly avoid it being managed by TDC or having any local politicians involved!!

  11. Hi all, just to say, the council cannot in any way build flats on the winter gardens site. The was a covenant placed as a condition of sale of the land to the council. The covenant stated that the view to the buildings opposite the winter gardens cam in no way be impeded!! That’s why the winter gardens was built below ground level. So in less the council has had the covenant revoked – which they probably haven’t – they are still legally bound by the covenant. My grandad had a copy of it and I remember reading it as a kid. So rest assured nothing can be built at street level on that site.

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