Kings to bid for lottery cash to help fund £3m theatre expansion plans

BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY The Kings Theatre in Southsea
BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY The Kings Theatre in Southsea
Sarah Earnshaw as Betty and Joe Pasquale as Frank Spencer in Some Mothers Do 'Av 'Em. Picture by Scott Rylander

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STAFF at Southsea’s Kings Theatre are bidding for £3m to transform the historic venue.

The Kings, in Albert Road, Southsea, is to receive £25,000 from Portsmouth City Council – half the amount it needs for a feasibility study and planning work before it bids for Heritage Lottery and other grant funding.

If successful, it will spend the £3m on improvements including bar and cafe space, arts space, interactive heritage attractions and backstage extensions.

Ian Pratt, vice-chairman of the Kings Theatre Trust, said: ‘We have a beautiful 103-year-old building, and we want to keep that heritage, but at the same time make our interior fit for the 21st Century. It’s a wish-list, but we want to improve the theatre for audiences, visitors and performers.’

The Trust hopes larger backstage areas will help ensure big theatre companies continue to bring shows to the theatre, while it also plans to increase visits outside of show times.

Mr Pratt said: ‘We won’t change the auditorium or the stage at all, and the outside of the building will of course stay the same.

‘But we have a lot of interesting historical equipment which people will be able to see and we’ll set up a mini cage so people can use the pulley and wires system we use to move scenery. We’ll also set up a new space for education, for children and adults.’

City council leader Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, strategic director Roger Ching and leader for culture Cllr Lee Hunt support the theatre’s request for £25,000.

Cllr Hunt said: ‘This is a similar idea to when the New Theatre Royal asked us for a small amount of seed funding, and have now brought almost £4m in as a result.

‘We think the outline proposals are a very good idea and we hope the theatre’s successful in its bid for grant funding, as the theatre’s visitors help bring in millions of pounds to the city.’

The £25,000 will be paid from the council’s general fund.