Supporters take a stand as theatre faces final curtain

CURTAIN UP Lewis Bailey, front right, with Phoenix Players, Athelney Productions and White Crane Fighting Arts on the stage of St Peters Theatre, Portsmouth.   Picture: Allan Hutchings (110472-622)
CURTAIN UP Lewis Bailey, front right, with Phoenix Players, Athelney Productions and White Crane Fighting Arts on the stage of St Peters Theatre, Portsmouth. Picture: Allan Hutchings (110472-622)
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SUPPORTERS of a unique community theatre are organising a campaign after it was revealed it could face closure.

St Peter’s Theatre in Fraser Road, Southsea, is used by three different drama companies, and is one of only six amateur venues in the country to have purpose-built flying facilities – allowing sets, props and even people to move through the air.

But its future may be in doubt after St Peter’s Church, which owns the theatre, announced it may move to new premises as part of the Somers Town regeneration project.

Users of the hall now fear that it could be sold and demolished, leaving them with nowhere to go.

Lewis Bailey is an actor with amateur dramatic group the Phoenix Players, and is heading the campaign. He said all those who loved the theatre should band together to make sure it survived.

‘Losing the theatre is not something any of us wants to see,’ he said. ‘The history of St Peter’s is fascinating in itself – a purpose-built theatre, erected by the church for the benefit of the community in the 1920s is extraordinary, and has a pretty unique story to tell.

‘It means a great deal to everyone who uses it. We’re not trying to get into conflict with the church, we just want to raise its profile so that people recognise that there is something here very much worth saving.’

St Peter’s Theatre opened in October 1924, and has three resident drama companies, the Phoenix Players, Victory-Land Theatre School, and Giselle Academy of Dance and Theatre Arts.

Local writer and director Nick Scovell, who recently staged Robin Hood at the venue said: ‘St Peter’s could well become a home to many other groups in the near future.

‘It has everything you need – an excellent, large stage with full technical set-up, rehearsal space and good support from the owners.’

The various halls are also used by a wide range of non-theatre groups, including the 44th Portsmouth Scout Group, two parent and toddler groups, White Crane Fighting Arts, and a weekly coffee morning.

The vicar of St Peter’s and St Luke’s in Southsea, The Rev Alex Hughes, said: ‘We have assured the theatre’s users that they will be part of any consultation.

‘We recognise the theatre has been a big part of what St Peter’s is about for almost a century, and we are not going to take any decisions lightly.

‘The council has said there will some land coming available for development, but we don’t know anything else about it. It’s still in the very early stages.’

More details of the protest are at stpeterstheatre.webs.com.