It’s not all that long ago that the ornate Kings Theatre was in very real danger of closing and being turned into a pub. A jewel in our local entertainment crown had lost its lustre and the future looked decidedly bleak.
Thankfully, the old lady of Albert Road survived after some heartfelt campaigning by Action for Kings Theatre Restoration.
Portsmouth City Council bought the 106-year-old building and leased it to the dedicated members of the newly-formed Kings Theatre Trust, who have since worked wonders over the past decade.
Today we’re delighted to report on ambitious plans, called The Big Project, to make the theatre fit for the future while still retaining its strong sense of history.
The wish list includes a new rehearsal space in a converted shop, offices to enable expansion of an apprenticeship and work placement programme, renovation of toilets and stairwells and expansion of the bars.
The council has chipped in £200,000 to help pay for consultants to draw up a business plan and designs and the trust has contributed £160,000 so far. It’s a good start, but the challenge will be to raise the £6m or so that will be needed to fund all the work over the next five or six years.
A bid for lottery cash is the obvious way forward.
We applaud the trust for taking a sensible long-term view about what is needed to make the Kings able to not just survive but thrive in the modern world.
With the New Theatre Royal already going through major redevelopment, these are exciting times.
And this is not just about improving the Kings – the local economy stands to benefit too, with the arts an important part of regeneration and the city’s tourism pulling power, which in turn leads to a bigger local spend by visitors. It could create jobs too.
As Ian Pratt, vice-chairman of the trust, says of upgrading the Kings: ‘It’s a part of making Portsmouth a better place to live and work and enjoy life, and that’s why we want to do it. A thriving theatre is part of a thriving city.’
We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.