New call for vital work at historic resort theatres

North Pier Theatre and the Winter Gardens Pavilion Theatre (below) have been added to a list of venues deemed at risk of demolition, redevelopment or closure.
North Pier Theatre and the Winter Gardens Pavilion Theatre (below) have been added to a list of venues deemed at risk of demolition, redevelopment or closure.
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Two of the oldest theatres in Blackpool are at risk of falling into disrepair and being “lost forever”, a new report warns.

The North Pier Theatre and Winter Gardens Pavilion are among the new additions to a list of 33 venues deemed at risk of demolition, redevelopment or closure.

Pavilion Theatre at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool

Pavilion Theatre at the Winter Gardens, Blackpool

In a stark warning, the Theatres Trust, which compiles the list, said urgent work is needed to save the venues.

Despite North Pier bosses spending £1m on vital repairs since it was devastated by storm damage in December, the trust warned the theatre is in need of further repair.

It also urged Blackpool Council to press ahead with its £21m plans to turn the Winter Gardens Pavilion, which is no longer in use as a theatre, into a museum in order to ensure repairs to its leaking roof are made before it is too late.

Theatres Trust director Mhora Samuel said: “The Theatre Buildings at Risk Register really raises awareness of the plight of many of our most threatened theatres.

“It makes people much more aware of the beautiful and much loved theatres that could be lost forever if action is not taken.”

Both venues ranked in the highest category of risk due to the condition of the buildings and the high cost of repairs.

The report warns last year’s storms left North Pier vulnerable, adding: “During the storm damage, the orchestra pit was sucked out from underneath the theatre.

“This has caused a void directly under the front of the stage which has affected the usability of the theatre and is causing issues with water and weather penetration.”

Boss Peter Sedgwick said the bigger threat comes from dwindling audience numbers.

He said: “We have spent a lot of money and repaired all the damage. My concern isn’t its condition, it’s how we are going to make it pay.

“People don’t seem to want to come to the theatre anymore. To get the stars in that you need, because they want so much money, you have to charge a fortune for tickets. But if you put on a low-budget show, people don’t come.”

He is now looking at bringing in a new producer next year in a bid to attract more customers.

The report also calls on Blackpool Council to “make every effort to repair the roof and secure the restoration and safety of the plasterwork of the Pavilion Theatre.”

Blackpool Council leader Coun Simon Blackburn said: “The Winter Gardens Pavilion Theatre is not under threat, in fact quite the opposite.

“It is the venue for our proposed Blackpool Museum project for which we have already received substantial lottery funding support and is currently in development.

“Part of that project will be safeguarding the infrastructure of the Pavilion, which does need some loving care to make it a fitting home for the museum.”

A £13.6m Heritage Lottery Fund grant has been earmarked for the project to create a flagship visitor attraction.