Theatres at Risk – those on the critical list in 2021

Ramsbottom’s CoOp Music Hall dating from the 1870s, the only addition to the list for 2021.

The Theatres Trust has today published its annual Theatres At Risk Register, which is its 14th year of publication. Yet again this year, the North West of England has the highest concentration of endangered buildings.

This year’s list of 31 UK theatre buildings are those most at risk of being lost due to closure, irreversible changes, demolition or simply neglect. With the appropriate help these historic (sometimes but not always listed) buildings could once again become vital assets to their communities. Once lost, they will never return.

Of the 31 theatres, 24 are in England with 10 of those in the north west and 4 in London. 3 are in Wales and 3 are in Scotland.

Changes from last year are minimal partly due to the pandemic, with the addition of just one building- the Co-Op Music Hall in Ramsbottom, near Bury, which dates from the 1870s and survives above a number of retail outlets, forgotten and neglected until very recently. Isn’t it astonishing how the UK’s building stock can still reveal forgotten treasures, even into the 21st century?

Last year’s new new addition to the list was the Grade II listed Groundlings Theatre in Portsmouth which suffered from the effects of break-ins and vandalism as well as a neighbouring redevelopment threat during 2019. The biggest thing impeding progress now is a very short-term lease which is the main stumbling block to unlocking further grant eligibility.

Positive steps have been made with the theatres who received financial and advisory support from the excellent Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme – Leith Theatre, Derby Hippodrome, Burnley Empire, Morecambe Winter Gardens, Salford Victoria, Spilsby Theatre, Swindon Mechanics’ Institute, along with Walthamstow Granada (you can read about my own visit to the Walthamstow Granada here).

Launched as a pilot scheme in 2019, the Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme is particularly important because it provides grants and in-depth advice from the Theatres Trust for the early stage work that is often difficult to fundraise for but essential to set theatres at risk on the path to survival and revival. It is certainly proving its value in driving renovation projects forward, which is to be celebrated in this otherwise uncertain time.

This new Register further reminds us of the extensive, valuable work which the Theatres Trust do to help keep our precious entertainment buildings from the wrecker’s ball. It is especially needed during times when daily observation and intelligence is restricted due to the constraints of lockdowns.

To explore the full 2021 Theatres at Risk Register, click here

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