Historic Groundlings Theatre in Portsmouth saved from closure by council cash

Artistic director Richard Stride at Groundlings Theatre, Kent Road.  Picture: Chris MoorhouseArtistic director Richard Stride at Groundlings Theatre, Kent Road.  Picture: Chris Moorhouse
Artistic director Richard Stride at Groundlings Theatre, Kent Road. Picture: Chris Moorhouse | JPIMedia
A STRUGGLING 200-year-old theatre in Portsmouth has been 'saved' from closure by a £15,000 council grant.

The Groundlings Theatre in Kent Street, Portsea, will receive the cash boost, along with a £36,000 loan in a move its director said has stopped its impending closure in two weeks' time.

As a result of the grant the theatre, which was built in 1784, will reach charitable status, meaning it can apply for further grants such as the National Lottery Heritage Fund in the future.

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For artistic director of the Groundlings, Richard Stride, this was a 'relief.' He said: 'If we didn't get that grant I can guarantee the theatre would close down in as little as two weeks. It's saved us and given us the ability to carry on as long as we can.

'We have been running this for 20 years or so with no grants.

'The theatre is of enormous benefit to the community. We take more than 100 work experience students every year. We have 25,000 people coming through the doors every year.

'We also do community stuff, we hold workshops and go into schools.'

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Mr Stride said the coronavirus pandemic had contributed to financial pressures, as well as a break-in at the theatre last year.

'The consequences of the break-in really have been quite far reaching,’ he said.

‘We haven't had all the insurance money back.'

The £15,000 grant is repayable to the council if the theatre fails to meet performance requirements

And the separate £36,000 loan will be held against the building, meaning if the theatre closed down the council would take back that money through sale of the building.

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The council's culture boss, Councillor Steve Pitt, approved the cash at a meeting on Friday. He said: 'The loan will be secured against the building so if anything happened the council would get the money back.

'Theatres are under increasing pressure. I am happy to support them and am delighted they are now a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO).'

It comes after national charity the Theatre Trust put it on its list of buildings at risk of closure earlier this year.

In 2018 an application to build 38 student homes next to the theatre was submitted by Lex Cross Developments Ltd. However, a decision on this has not yet been made.

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