AMBITIOUS plans to create a buzzing theatreland in the heart of Portsmouth came £1m closer this afternoon.
The cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund will kick-start a £4m project to breathe new life into the historic New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk.
The £939,900 grant means the redevelopment of the theatre can now go ahead in collaboration with the University of Portsmouth.
The money must be spent on the repair and restoration of the Grade II* listed building. This includes rebuilding the stage, orchestra pit, dressing rooms and offices.
A creative learning centre will also be built to be used by local groups and organisations. It will be dedicated to the Oscar-winning writer and director Anthony Minghella, a huge Pompey fan who came from the Isle of Wight.
A group of volunteers has kept the 111-year-old theatre going since a devastating fire in 1972.
New Theatre Royal director Caroline Sharman said: ‘This is wonderful news for us and, I hope, for the people of Portsmouth who have worked so tirelessly over the past 40 years to keep this beautiful theatre alive.’
John Craven, the university’s vice-chancellor, said: ‘I’m delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has recognised the importance of restoring the theatre as a major historic building and also its future in the cultural and educational life of Portsmouth. We’re proud to be a partner in this project.’