Portsmouth council set to buy New Theatre Royal to save 'bright future' of city entertainment

A STRUGGLING theatre is set to be bought by the city council to protect the future of the arts.

By David George
Monday, 25th January 2021, 4:44 pm
Updated Monday, 25th January 2021, 4:45 pm

On February 2, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet will vote on a proposal to buy New Theatre Royal, which has been closed since March last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

It comes as the New Theatre Royal Trust, which owns and operates the 650-seat venue, struggles with finances, with all scheduled shows either cancelled or postponed.

An independent survey has found the Grade II-listed building to be in generally good condition, although some repairs are required in the short term.

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The New Theatre Royal, in Guildhall Walk.

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Deputy council leader, Cllr Steve Pitt, said: ‘The New Theatre Royal is a key part of Portsmouth's cultural offering and as the only venue of its type and size offers something we don't have anywhere else.

‘It's vitally important we safeguard it for future generations and not allow it to be lost, particularly because of its huge potential to reach people who don't currently think about going to the theatre or engaging with culture.

‘It's location in the city centre means the theatre has the opportunity to broaden people's cultural horizons, bringing new work and innovative performances to people from all parts of the city, alongside more conventional programming, community performances and comedy.’

In a review commissioned by the council, it was said that the right programme of performances could create a bright future for the theatre.

The proposed purchase would see the council own the building and lease it back to the trust, in a similar arrangement to that in place with the Kings Theatre and Guildhall.

Simon Eden, chairman of trustees at New Theatre Royal, said: ‘We’re delighted to be working with Portsmouth City Council and to have a clear way forward following a most difficult ten months.

‘We truly believe that we are all going to need theatres more than ever to bring us back together as our community recovers from Covid-19.

‘This rescue package from Portsmouth City Council means that we can be here for our audiences, inspiring them through live performance and participation, for many more years to come.’

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