Extra money for theatre makeover

The New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk Portsmouth.
The New Theatre Royal in Guildhall Walk Portsmouth.

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THE New Theatre Royal has secured more cash – including a bail-out from Portsmouth City Council.

The theatre, which is to undergo a £4m refurbishment, has won a £250,000 grant funding from the Garfield Weston Foundation.

And the venue in Guildhall Walk, Portsmouth, has also been given an urgent grant by Portsmouth council, which helped it meet a £50,000 loan payment which was due at the end of January.

The council stepped in with £50,000, and a further £60,000 to be paid between now and June this year.

The theatre’s trust asked for the cash because delays to work had affected cashflow and left it unable to make the repayment on a loan it took out to pay for design work and secure grants from public bodies.

The council’s leader for culture, Councillor Lee Hunt, said: ‘The trust asked us to advance a grant we had already agreed. The theatre’s an excellent community resource, the work going on is exciting and we support the trust, which is doing an excellent job.

‘But with this money comes a condition. This is a hiatus, but we don’t want to see it happen again, and Councillors Steve Wemyss and Peter Eddis, who are on the trust, will help ensure it is focused and committed.’

The £250,000 from arts project support group Garfield Weston, adds to £500,000 pledged last month by the Partnership for Urban South Hampshire and means all the funding is now in place for the theatre’s refurbishment.

The plans include a ‘creative space’ behind the stage and above the dressing rooms, and a 700-seat auditorium with a bigger stage.

Theatre director Caroline Sharman said: ‘We’re delighted. It’s very exciting. We’re also very pleased the council has agreed to help us.

‘The money we have was tied up because specific grants are for specific work.

‘It was a temporary cash-flow issue, but the council’s decision is a welcome help to get us through that and continue to prepare for the work that will be done. We also welcome the council’s continued involvement in all we’re doing.’

Work is set to begin by the end of the year, and should be completed by September 2013.