Resort theatres ‘at risk’

The 'Pavilion Theatre in Blackpool
The 'Pavilion Theatre in Blackpool
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Leisure chiefs have committed to the futures of two ‘at risk’ Blackpool theatres.

North Pier Theatre and the Pavilion Theatre, in the Winter Gardens, were first listed on the Theatre’s Trust list of venues at risk of demolition, redevelopment or closure last year.

North Pier Theatre

North Pier Theatre

Despite efforts by their owners, the venues remain on the list, released yesterday.

The trust’s fears are at odds with the future of the Pavilion Theatre, owned by Blackpool Entertainment Company - under Blackpool Council, which is earmarked as the home of the new £21m Blackpool Museum project.

Coun Simon Blackburn, leader of Blackpool Council, said: “As most people know, there are no concerns about the Pavilion Theatre as it is the new home of the Blackpool Museum. I’m happy, however, to highlight the work we are doing with the museum project to secure the future of the Pavilion and bring Blackpool’s vibrant history to life.

“We’ve worked hard to secure substantial lottery funding and as a result of this we were able to host an open day to unveil the first public museum plans recently.”

North Pier owner Peter Sedgewick has pledged his ongoing aim to maintain the North Pier venue as a theatre – while admitting it was a challenging venue and hard work.

A full season of shows has struggled to consistently pull in audiences, he added.

“We want to keep it, make a success of it, and make it stand on its own two feet,” Mr Sedgewick, who also recently bought South and Central Piers, said. “We can’t keep ploughing money into it, and we talk about it all the time.”

He said the venue needed ‘big names’ to sell its 1,500-capacity auditorium – but that tickets would have to cost £100 to make these viable.

Claire Appleby, architecture advisor for the Theatres Trust, said the body was in regular contact with local heritage chiefs, and being on the list can actually help venues.

“Being on the list does get publicity, and helps with funding applications,” she said. “Even when a place might be almost there with plans and funding for a safe future, it can help get that over the final hurdle.”

She added that with the museum plans still in the early stages of feasibility studies – funded by a £1.6m Heritage Lottery grant – there was ‘quite a long way to go’ before the Pavilion Theatre could be declared safe.