Public show support for future reopening of ‘Theatre at Risk’
A study undertaken as the first step of the project to find a possible future use for the historic Grand Theatre in Doncaster has demonstrated that there is significant public support with more than 92% of respondents1 saying they would get behind the Grand Theatre if reopened.
An ornate Grade II listed Victorian theatre, the Grand Theatre has been closed for more than 25 years, and has been on the Theatres at Risk Register since 2006. The first phrase of a viability study was completed following a grant award from Theatres Trust, the national public advisory body for theatres, with additional match funding from Doncaster Council.
The study also showed that there is a market for a reopened Grand Theatre to host a range of events including musicals, popular music and comedy, as well as being used as space for hire for a variety of community activities. The study did however recommend that given the scale of any restoration project it would be best to a take a phased “meantime use” approach, meaning any redevelopment would happen incrementally, tackling smaller sections of the building at a time.
The project has brought together key parties, including the building owner Frenchgate Shopping Centre, the Friends of Doncaster Grand Theatre, Theatres Trust and Doncaster Council resulting in the formation of a Stakeholder Group, who will continue to work together to explore options for the building.
The next step will involve commissioning further research into architectural options for the Theatre and a more detailed plan for a phased approach as to its restoration. If a viable way forward can be identified, this could then be presented to potential funders.
Janina McBride, Theatres At Risk Adviser at Theatres Trust, comments “We believe every theatre on our Theatres at Risk list has real potential to be returned for use by their communities, so we are pleased to see that this study has concluded that there could be a market for a reopened Grand Theatre, and we look forward to continuing to support Doncaster Grand as plans progress.”
Ken Waight, Chair of Friends of Doncaster Grand Theatre, comments “The need for a Feasibility report was highlighted some years ago and now that it’s here, it offers some sensible and hopefully workable possibilities for the future of the Grand. It is realistic in what is suggested, with live theatre an important, but not exclusive element for its future. The Friends support the proposals and want to work with the other stakeholders, to help take them forward.”
Karen Staniforth, General Manager, Frenchgate Shopping Centre comments “The study has provided an essential first steps towards realising a potential long-term vision for the Future of the Grand, and the contribution this could make the new City’s Arts and Culture and economic growth. It was great to see the results of the Community survey, reporting a positive response in securing a future for the Grand.”
Cllr Nigel Ball, Cabinet member for Public Health, Leisure, Culture and Planning at Doncaster Council, said: “We know how much our residents take pride in the heritage of Doncaster – and this Theatre remains close to the heart of many who have lived in and around Doncaster for many years. It is exciting to see so many partners come together and create a real momentum behind this historic building and I look forward and support more progress being made on this project. My thanks go to all those who have been involved in the study so far.”
Doncaster Grand was one of 15 theatres to receive funding over the three years of the Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme, with the project receiving a grant for £11,500 in 2021. Run by the Theatres Trust, the programme was designed to support theatres on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register to commission expert advice and acquire the skills and knowledge to push forward capital projects to help save their theatres.
NOTES TO EDITORS
Theatres Trust is the national advisory public body for theatres. They believe that current and future generations should have access to good quality theatre buildings where they can be inspired by, and enjoy, live performance. They champion the future of live performance by protecting and supporting excellent theatre buildings which meet the needs of their communities. They do this by providing advice on the design, planning, development and sustainability of theatres, campaigning on behalf of theatres old and new and offering financial assistance through grants.
Theatres at Risk Register
The Theatres at Risk Register is published annually by the Theatres Trust to highlight and support the theatre buildings under threat across the UK. There are 41 theatres on the 2022 list, which was announced in February. Every theatre on the register has strong architectural merit or cultural heritage and the potential to be returned to its original performance use and be a real asset to its community. Since 2006 Theatres Trust has helped save more than 80 theatres on the Theatres at Risk list.
1 92.4% of 3,785 respondents