Proposal to expand Theatre Royal facilities and create ‘performing arts hub’ with Cliftonville Cultural Space

Theatre Royal Photo Sheradon Dublin

Plans for the future of Margate’s Theatre Royal include marketing it with neighbouring 19 Hawley Square so facilities for food and drink can be created and joining up with the Cliftonville Cultural Space project at the former synagogue building to form a ‘performing arts hub,’ for the town.

The proposals, which are part of the £22.2 million Margate Town Deal, are being discussed by Thanet council Cabinet members later this month.

Both the Theatre Royal and Margate Winter Gardens are shut while the future for the venues is examined. The Theatre Royal closed its doors on April 28 and the Winter Gardens followed suit last month.

The historic Theatre Royal has been allocated £2million from the Margate Town Deal fund to help with renovation works.

Theatre Royal Photo Sheradon Dublin

A report to Cabinet members says a costed condition survey by Lee Evans Partnership carried out in 2021 reveals the theatre requires £2 million of necessary improvements to bring it up to modern standards, with £370,000 of this identified as urgent.

The Margate Town Deal commitment of £2million will mean the work can be completed but will also be used as the match-funding requirement for a bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The report says: “This is seen as a five year project where the Town Fund and council’s commitment of 19 Hawley Square forms the foundation of activity, which will ultimately see us secure a long-term, commercially viable future for quality theatrical production in Margate.”

The Theatre 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. The group had proposed keeping the theatre open while the project was being prepared but Thanet council said this was not viable or possible.

Thanet council bought 19 Hawley Square from Orbit Housing in 2011 with a view to expanding the Theatre’s facilities.

Theatre Royal Photo Sheradon Dublin

In 2014 Thanet council offered a long lease or freehold interest in the theatre, and buildings at 16a and 19 Hawley Square and there was an expression of interest from Soho Theatres.

Soho Theatres developed a bid to the National Lottery Heritage Fund to deliver an improved theatre alongside community, food and beverage and hotel space at 19 Hawley Square. However, this bid fell through due to being at the end of the funding period although there was sufficient support for the idea.

Now Thanet council aims to revive some of this proposal in a bid to make the theatre commercially viable.

The report says: “The Theatre Royal is underperforming commercially, the lack of food and beverage, rehearsal and green room facilities, and seating capacity are significant barriers to the ongoing operation of the space.

“It is the second oldest working theatre in the country and has been identified as being of significant historical and heritage value. With 465 seats, it is a mid-scale presenting theatre. It has a strong local base audience and there is a strong affinity for the building and productions that take place there. “The building is currently on the Theatres at Risk Register, and the improvements identified will be fundamental to the safeguarding of its long term operation and allowing it to stay in use.”

It adds: “Margate needs to focus on a theatrical hub for performance and production rather than just a better performing theatre

“There is a need to provide extended facilities in order to support the financial sustainability of the Theatre Royal, and this is the basis on which the Margate Town Deal project and Business Case was put together, which has been submitted to central government.”

An architect design for the Cliftonville Cultural Space project

Thanet council says an expression of interest has been submitted to Arts Council England with the Cliftonville Cultural Space.

The aim is for Theatre Royal to act as the foundation for a more significant theatre production cluster.

The funding bid would help  to make sure food and drink could be offered at 19 Hawley Square, which would provide income.

It would also help with  the provision of rehearsal space at the former Cliftonville synagogue to enable development of productions locally as well as longer runs from touring companies.

Inside the Cliftonville synagogue

There would also be studio space at the Cliftonville Cultural Space. The funding would help provide improved green room and changing rooms; residences for artists and performers and increased community engagement with theatre and performance from Margate’s most deprived communities.

If the Expression of Interest is successful the full application stage runs from 19 September until 18 November.

A bid will also be made to the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Theatre Royal project will be carried out in phases.

The first stage, includes the use of the Margate Town Deal Funds to complete the urgent works costing £370,000 for minor roof repairs, removal of the asbestos stage curtain, and fire protection measures and the provision of a proper ventilation system.

Once the urgent works have been completed, the next step will be to complete other structure works including; window repairs and decorations, plastering in lime plaster where plaster has failed, and ceiling repairs to the value of £400,000.

A Creative Director will be hired, using external funding, to oversee the project.

The Theatre Royal and 19 Hawley Square will be marketed as a package to find an operator/commercial partner.

Thanet council Cabinet members are expected to agree to the plans at a meeting on September 22.


    • LOL
      I’m not going to disagree.
      Whatever happened to the characters in Culture? Jean Cocteau’s party piece and all that!

        • I also wouldn’t be happy if an “ Art group “took over our 2 theatres .
          The theatres should be free and able to show the type of shows/ concerts that the local population would want to see without any background politics dictating what shows are booked or not booked .

          • I’ve noticed that whenever I write anything like this I – rightly or wrongly – get criticised… yet none of these arty types ever reassure me by saying that they’ll carry on with acts like the ones I’ve mentioned!

  1. All going on in margate as ever, meanwhile the granville in ramsgate remains empty as the council wont approve very reasonable bids to bring it back to lfe

      • But we have luxury flats where farleys used to be, and a whole huge complex of luxury flats being built down the seafrtont, im sure the many homeless people will appreciate the revenue that brings into the town

        • Wealthy people bring with them their spending power and demand for goods and services, whilst it may not directly help a specific homeless person, anything that increases an areas productivity has to be an improvement , any additional investment from private individuals / companies surely must be a welcome boost to Thanet. There has to be a point at which the handouts stop and we stand on our own feet.

          • affordable housing would be a better idea, and its a high concern at the moment for thanet
            How do homeless people stand on their own two feet?and with the cost of living crisis, higher rents, i see no solution, and many more whole families finding themselves on the streets as there is no emergency housing in the area

        • “… homeless people…”?
          People who paid Council Tax to T.D.C. then became homeless?
          Or folk from elsewhere who have never paid T.D.C. a penny, but choose to be “homeless” in Thanet? And use the public loos, etc. that we pay for?
          Compassion is great. However, it is not often a good bedfellow of balancing stretched budgets. Is it?

          • does it matter how they are homeless,i am aware a lot of beggers in the town are smack heads and not actually homeless, but you have seen the young couples living in doorways? sure they didnt chose to be homeless you nugget

        • Wevsky, TDC pay a company called Paramount Property Services a small fortune each year to provide emergency housing for the homeless. So your “no emergency housing” is far from correct. As for the personal circumstances of those you see on the streets, who knows, but the council works closely with various outreach services so perhaps you should ask them. Then of course there are accessibility criteria for emergency housing , if there were not and we had some we’d just be a magnet for waifs and strays looking for a room for the night on the coast.

          • Thats utter rubbish, woman i know with two children was on the streets all over xmas a year or so ago, put in a hotel for a while, still on waiting list for a house or flat. there isnt the houses to put people in.When i rang the council recently concerned about the possibility of being evicted, i was told on the phone not to rely on them, they dont have the housing available. so yeah ill go by what i was told by the TDC and use my own judgment. And no being split up or put into housing 30 miles away wouldnt be an option

          • I didn’t say there was enough housing i said that there was considerable provision, in response to your comment that there is no emergency housing in the area. There is just arguably not enough. But with such things the more you provide the more that will be wanted.
            The council will never offer anything to someone currently housed and wil always say “ stay where you are until the bailiffs come” . Just as the headlime figures say there are xx 1000 on the waiting list , when in fact the majority are adequately housed but they are people who would prefer cheap social housing. I’d like a home subsidised by the taxpayer but i won’t ever get one, nor will a lot of other people.

          • And as the council said to me, even when the balifs turn up they wouldnt be able to help us. staying here is our only option, in a house my wife can no longer manage the stairs in , so if and when the day comes our landlord increases the rent past the point we can afford due to hsi mortgage rates going up yet again, we will be out on the streets.Its not a case of wanting cheap social housing, its a case of being unable to find any housing other than private landlords cos we just cant get on any waiting list with the situation we are in.The system is broken.

          • Perhaps then you may feel that the endless antilandlord sentiment in the country has not had a positive effect on the tenants the landlords house. I don’t know whether you consider your landlord to be good or bad, if its a decent one ask them about Section24 ( which effectively means rent increases need to be higher than the amount a mortgage increases, and before the naysayers start spouting please google it first) endless legislation that makes renting ever more unattractive.
            As a nation we’ve lived beyond our means , the private rented sector has been very successful, is cheaper to the state than the social sector and has not killed anywhere near the same number of tenants, but somehow we’re in the wrong. Destroying the sector wouldn’t be quite so bad if there was alternative provision waiting , but there’s not. The argument that the home still exists is disingenuous because owner occupied property is less densely occupied that the rented sector, so there’s a net loss.
            The daft thing is that if tenants in the private rented sector wrote to their mp’s and complained it would be very different but the issue has been hijacked by the likes of shelter and generation rent who’ve distorted the the picture.
            None of that helps you unfortunately, your first port of call would be contact the council for a discretionary housing payment to help with the rent and to make sure you’ve accessed all the state help you can. You don’t mention where you are , but a written letter( not an email) to your mp should get a response , it certainly will if its Roger Gale, if you have anti tory views set them aside and meet him, you’ll get some no nonsense advice and help if he can access it for you. McKinlay i’ve not dealt with so have no idea, but if nothing else raise your concerns with him.

          • My local mp is not a very nice or caring chap,Ill be honest for 11 odd years we where on a soft rent, so for a 4 bedroom house, cheaper than anything else, times changed, our landord s decent enough bloke, we have been here 16 years or more and its only been since 2019 rents have gone up, his suggestion after the last increase of 100 pound a short time ago , was to find him examples of 4 bed houses at a lower price and he would adjust. there isnt anywhere private rented cheaper, not very many 3 bed houses go for what we are paying
            If my wifes health deteriorates any more then we may actually be able to jump through the many hoops needed to be able to apply for social housing, or if any of the kids can afford to move out we would be penalised for having a spare bedroom, so would need smaller.. dont know if you noticed but there just isnt a huge amount of properties for rent let alone that take people on benefits due to disabilities..discretionary housing payment is a last resort, while we can pay and tighten our belts we do, how this winters going to go for us with that cost of living crisis i dont know. we shall as ever manage

      • Yes, ! I was reading a beautifully put together booklet “ Ramsgate Military & heritage trail “ this week about Ramsgate made by Ralph Hoult (Mr Ramsgate) which reminded me that The Rolling Stones played one of their earlier gigs at the former Motor Museum in Ramsgate which made me wonder why hasn’t an entrepreneur come forward to re open this forgotten venue ?
        Last night I was watching a documentary “ Hello Quo” about Status Quo and at one point it showed their diary in the early 70’s where one night they were playing the then named Wembley Empire Pool now known as Wembley Arena and the next night they played Dreamland ballroom ,Margate
        My point being that both Quo and The Stones played venues here in Thanet and it’s important that we can have venues in our area to attract top bands / artists ……
        Before we get “ Down ,Down, deeper and down” and “ Can’t get , no satisfaction “ . Lol

          • Yes , I knew that they played there in 2004 and also that Status Quo were so disgusted with the changing rooms at the Winter Gardens ( I won’t repeat the S hole word that they used to describe it which was reported at the time ) and that they said that they wouldn’t play there again …. And they didn’t !
            Since then Francis Rossi was more recently booked to play Theatre Royal, on his “ I talk too much “ tour and I had tickets to see him but alas after rearranging the dates twice due to Covid , the show was cancelled after the 2nd time of rebooking
            Francis Rossi is now doing a solo show next year at the Kings Hall , Herne Bay ,a show that one can only think would have taken place at the Theatre Royal if it wasn’t currently closed

    • The Granville has been sold for a couple of weeks now going by the Miles and Barr
      “To whom, exactly?” is my pertinent question, we ought to know.

      • ….going by the Miles and Barr notices on the outside of the building….

        (Why is there no edit facility for mistakes on this stupid site?)

        • ‘Why is there no edit facility for mistakes on this stupid site?’
          Nobody else seems to have a problem!
          So rude!

          • Samantha Davies,
            Just how damned rude are you, for heaven’s sake? I have published a comment before containing a mistake, THE SAME AS OTHERS HAVE DONE ALSO, and once published there is not a device in place to subsequently correct it where as on other sites that I use there most certainly is.
            You may not have had a problem, but others on here most certainly have had in the past and have had to correct it by making another post, the same as I just had to. Wind your neck in, please Miss Perfect.
            SO RUDE!!!

  2. So another cosy deal between TDC and Orbit , one in which a building has stood empty for 11 years ( or has it been used in that time?) so there was it would seem no real plan or budget for its use at the time of purchase. Was the purchase done on the open market or the price determined internally for Orbits benefit?

    As for creating a hub with the inclusion of the Shoul, what planet is TDC on, the Shoul has said in a previous article that it needs 2 million for its plans, quite why on the one hand does the group that now owns it feel that having secured the building its down to the public purse to bring their dreams to fruition , then on the other hand why would TDC who has been unable to look after the Theatre Royal think they can conjour up more money to expand a facility. Whislt it wouldn’t go far 2 million would be a good deposit for works on the Wintergardens.

    Lee Evans partnership seem to get considerable amounts of work from TDC , which given their somewhat cavalier approach and management in respect of the Dalby Square Heritage Scheme is odd, are there any figures as to how much business is passed their way by TDC?

  3. Thanet(Margate) District Council Tories. I dont know why anyone in Ramsgate votes for them. Sell of Ramsgate’s assets,pump cash into Margate.

  4. Yet again I raise the issue of the Pavilion in Westgate~on~Sea. Sold by TDC to a private individual several years ago. The purchaser stated” it would be used as a community asset”

    Within a year the purchaser went to TDC cap in hand asking for money to “Bring the building up to present day requirements” This was refused. The building remains closed with as far as we the public can see no work taking place and unable to be used by the public.

    Why did TDC sell when the then leaseholder was able to run it successfully. Why didn’t they sell to the the leaseholder but chose to close him down. So many answers required.

    One of the most important questions is how much did TDC sell it for as a private sale as it never went onto the open market and for what reason wasn’t it.

    The secretiveness within TDC is very evident as it has been for many years. So much for open government.

    • It’s a real blip on the otherwise rather good Westgate seafront (particularly since all the cafes have been refurbished). I agree, questions need to be asked – and answered. Have you tried sending a FOI request?

      • I think that it’s a crying shame that Westgate Pavilion has been allowed to get into the state that it’s currently in as the location has great potential with a few quid thrown behind it
        Am I right in thinking that at one point a few years ago someone from Ramsgate who was buying it was promoting that he was good friends with David Bowie and that he had great connections in the music business which he would draw on to play at Westgate Pavilion ?
        Whatever happened to that ambitious idea ?
        Or was it a case of “ Talk is cheap “ . ?

  5. Wevsky.
    Maybe the “young couple” would do better better to spend some daytime in a warm dry library improving their chances.
    Decades ago the adage, “God helps those who help themselves!”, was commonly dispensed common sense advice.
    Melancholy won’t help.

    • To be honest i am 52 with a wife and 3 kids living at home, we are a rent increase or two away from being in a situation where we can no longer afford the rent, and the lack of affordable housing on top of that, so melancholy isnt it, brutally honest is the case.TDC cant house us if we get behind on the rent and evicted, so what do yo suppose 5 of us with 16 years of belongings do ? go sit in the library ?

      • Mate, I get where you’re coming from.
        I’m 61, currently employed and live on my own as a tenant.
        This time last year, I had just secured the tenancy. Having spent a few weeks sleeping on sofas after walking out on a very long term relationship.
        I’ve owned my own mortgaged property for most of my adult life. Although I loathe the entire concept of liability to maintain a property owned by a financial institution and simultaneously devaluing £Sterling. We lost that in 2009.
        Life has taught me to prepare for the worst and plan for the best.

          • The cycle bottoms out 2024-‘5.
            Spend some time having good ideas, living frugally and putting every penny away that you can.
            Then, in 2026, invest everything you’ve put away in your best idea.
            That’s how entrepreneurs get to be Entrepreneurs. I’ve got my idea and next month I start scrimping.
            See you all on the other side!😉

        • im a carer for a housebound wife, we dont have a pot to pee in, and savings for things like heating and kids clothes. nice idea tho

        • Mortgage free?That would involve being paid enough when i was able to work to afford a mortgage, ive only settled and married 15 years ago, never been in a position to have a house of my own, nice thinking tho.

  6. I thought the article was about the theatre royal, how did get to housing,yes cheap housing is in short supply,but back to the point the theatre royal, I stopped going a few years back when the arty people took over,pantos with no audience participation,and plays you had to be on magic mushrooms to understand,I was friend of the theatre for quite a few years ,but stopped because of the arty brigade taking over ,bring back good plays and other productions to get the loyal clients back

  7. Peter, reliable as ever, sees the word ‘culture’ and is triggered into a full on melt down.
    If you want to see terrible stand-up then I’m pretty sure Jim Davidson played in Margz relatively recently.. unless you’re just looking for something to be outraged about…

  8. My point was, Pete, that no one is banning anything or suggesting a particular act can’t or shouldn’t play. This is an outrage you’ve concocted in your own head as you seemingly can’t abide anything being done by anyone not specifically catering to you.

    If you’re so invested then why don’t you submit a proposal to run it? Or see if you can become a part of the group putting themselves forward? Is it, perhaps, that this would involve doing something more constructive than endlessly commenting on the comment section of a local news website?

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