Ownership of 700 collapsible chairs from the Winter Gardens, Margate has been transferred to the Granville Cinema in Ramsgate.
Thanet council agreed the sale of the seating to the Granville owners, saying: “As the building is vacant, the chairs would be vulnerable to further deterioration due to damp and moisture exposure, as well as being a potential fire risk, and further damage during future restoration works.”
The Winter Gardens was closed in August and the building secured shortly afterwards. Some £300,000 has been allocated from the £22.2million Margate Town Deal fund to pay for an appraisal study of the venue for its future use.
The new owners of the Granville are Westwood One Ltd, which also operates Under 1 Roof Thanet in Pysons Road and Under 1 Roof Canterbury.
The company is headed up by Ramsgate sisters Zahra and Parisa Tarjomani and Pyramid Martial Arts & Just Kids Parties owner Matt Milchard.
The plans for the building are to bring it back into use as a theatre and cinema with café and community arts space.
The trio are proposing to return the building to one auditorium – as was the case in the 1940s – with a 600+ seater capacity, full regeneration of the theatre space, a sea view café and bar, exhibition space, co-working space, workshop and education space. The seating has been bought for use in the auditorium space. It is hoped the site will reopen in April.
Zahra said: “Works have begun on renovating the space and we are delighted that we are now in possession of a number of chairs that were previously used in the Margate Winter Gardens.
“The Winter Gardens is currently closed and unable to provide performance opportunities, so rather than the chairs being left to rot in an empty theatre, we have very gladly accepted the chance to re-use them in our new auditorium.
“We are so pleased that we get to recycle these amazing seats that we all have such fond memories of and make good use of them for the people of Thanet and our local performing arts groups.
“We are extremely grateful to the council, which also believes the seats are best served in a used space rather than left to deteriorate in a temporarily closed venue. Should anyone have any memorandum plaques on any of the chairs in our possession, we would like to also offer the opportunity for these to remain on the chairs so that the memory of your loved ones can continue in an operational theatre. Should anyone wish to retrieve their plaque however, please do email us and we will arrange returning this.”
Labour councillor Rob Yates, who had raised a question about seats but at the Theatre Royal during a meeting in September, says he is confident the seats are in ‘good hands.’
He said: “Thanet residents have been asking for months where the Winter Gardens chairs (and the memorial plaques on them) have been going.
“A month and a half after the decision was taken it’s good to see transparency around these assets.
“Having spoken to the new Granville Theatre operators I’m confident that they’ll be in good hands and I think I speak for the community in wishing them luck in getting that venue back open.”
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