Theatres Trust grant of £10k awarded for Margate Theatre Royal project

Theatre Royal Photo Ian Grundy

Thanet council has been awarded £10,000 of grant funding from the Theatres Trust towards the Margate Theatre Royal project.

The funding, from the Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities project, is in recognition of Theatre Royal’s heritage and ‘at risk’ status.

The award follows an allocation of £2m in April 2022 for renovations at the theatre which came from the Margate Town Deal. Margate received £22.2m from the government’s Towns Fund to be spent on a number of projects across the town.

The Town Deal funding for the Theatre Royal will cover the extensive repairs that have been identified as essential to secure the existing building.

As part of this renovation project, the council is working with an advisory stakeholder group and will be looking for an operator and project partner, as well as making a funding submission to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for additional grants.

A specialist project manager was recruited and is now working on the business case for the development of the theatre.

Theatres Trust grant

Theatre Royal Photo Sheradon Dublin

The funding from the Theatres Trust will enable Thanet council to commission two reports. The first will be a heritage significance statement to summarise the theatre’s local, regional and national importance. It will include architectural merit and unique heritage features; alongside its social, artistic and cultural importance as the second oldest working theatre in the UK.

The second will be an update to the business case and an options appraisal for the future management of the theatre.

Louise Askew, Head of Regeneration and Growth for Thanet District Council, said: “The Theatre Royal Margate is a well-loved local venue, with an important role to play in Thanet’s night-time economy and in the provision of arts in the district.

“We are grateful for this additional funding from Theatres Trust – understanding the Theatre Royal’s history and current day viability is critical. This funding will inform not only the conservation and modernisation of the development but also support the vision and sustainability of the business case.”

Returned to use

Historic venue Courtesy Theatre Royal Margate Archive

Jon Morgan, Director at Theatres Trust, said: “We believe every theatre on our ‘Theatres at Risk’ list has the potential to be returned for use by their communities, providing performance venues of types currently lacking in their local areas and bringing much needed footfall to town centres. Theatres Trust is delighted to support the Theatre Royal Margate with this project that will help it move a step closer to its ultimate goal.”

Future plans

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.

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

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.

Thanet council says it is “seen as a five year project.”

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 year. All staff were made redundant and they have formed Phoenix Community Events.

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

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 make the theatre commercially viable once more.

It is the second oldest working theatre in the country and has 465 seats. The building  has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2018.

Urgent works

Theatre Royal Photo Sheradon Dublin

The first stage of works will be to complete 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.

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

The Theatres Trust grant marks the next step in applying to the National Lottery Heritage Fund for match funding for the conservation and restoration of the theatre.


  1. The future of Margate Digital (in M&S/Store 21 as was) appeaqrs uncertain. Basic refurbishment from the £750,000 Town Deal up front grant was to have been completed by Spring 2021 and the building lies empty with sprouting graffiti for a second unemployed summer (despite
    a proposal that the ground floor be made available to the ‘creative cluster’ in time for the Coronation and general ‘visitor offer’. Partner EKC seems to be in no great hurry but Partner The Margate School could certainly make present use. If EKC are reconsidering the viability of their venture (demography is against them) then it might be possible to release a fair proportion of the Levelling Up £6 millions in favour of developing the ‘Theatre Royal Complex’. I’m sure the Secretary of State has taken heed of the strictures regarding over-ambition and under-delivery and Margate is an object lesson in such. Has anyone yet seen any Minutes from the Margate Creative Land Trust n(registered last July) – they have another £6 millions assigned from the Town Deal ?
    A Request to the Thanet Town Deal Scrutiny Panel has been submitted asking whether they are satisfied with the apparent sclerosis and whether a constructive reconfiguration should be entertained.

  2. i wonder how much of that will be swallowed up with ” meetings ” consultations / reports / bla bla bla

    • Oddly enough, meetings, consultations and reports are quite important when you’re spending millions on a project like this.
      But of course in ‘real racists world’ nothing is planned or thought through. It’s all just done adhoc. You can picture his kitchen being a 2nd hand oven which doesn’t quite fit the units, cupboard doors that don’t match and a kettle you have to unplug if you want to use the microwave.

  3. It would be great if they can do the necessary works and the theatre can become a viable entity again. I would definitely frequent it and I’m sure the surrounding area would benefit from the increased footfall and investment.

Comments are closed.