MORE than 5,000 people have signed a petition urging council help for the group trying to save St Peter’s Theatre in Portsmouth.
The signatures have been presented to Portsmouth City Council’s Lib Dem cabinet and will be considered at a full meeting of the council next week. The petition has been backed by Portsmouth actress Dillie Keane.
It follows the decision by the Parochial Church Council, which runs the Fraser Road building, not to take any further bookings beyond January next year.
This has left local theatre groups fearing the historic building will be sold and demolished, as the church seeks to save money and move to a new larger building in Portsmouth city centre.
Campaign chairwoman Suki Jones said people’s strength of feeling was obvious from the number of signatures and comments they have received.
In her letter to the council she wrote: ‘Many local residents have an attachment to this theatre, either as a forging ground for learning skills such as acting, dancing, stage management, light and sound, scenery painting and all aspects of stagecraft, some of whom have gone on to professional careers in related fields.
‘Equally, residents see this as a vital resource for bringing the community together. We’re not asking for money from the council, but feel that the wishes of so many should not be ignored.
‘We look to the council to support us in our efforts to find a more imaginative solution to this situation.’
But council cabinet member for planning, regeneration and economic development, Cllr Mike Hancock, said there was not much the council could do.
‘Ultimately, this is a decision for the church,’ he said. ‘We are in a difficult position – there is no way we can buy this building.’