THE Kings Theatre in Southsea is to get a multimillion-pound facelift to make it fit for the 21st century.
The theatre’s trust has dubbed the scheme The Big Project and is looking at spending around £13m over the next decade on revamping the Edwardian structure.
There’s an awful lot of love and goodwill for this building and it’s our job to harness that and take it forward to the next levelian Pratt, vice chairman of the Kings Theatre Trust
And it intends to carry out the works in a series of smaller, phased projects focusing on different aspects of the theatre in a bid to minimise disruption to its day-to-day functioning.
Vice-chairman of the trust Ian Pratt said: ‘Over the past few years we have been looking at the Kings Theatre and saying, what do we need to do to make it right for the 21st century?
‘For the expectations of the public, the touring groups, the staff and everyone else who uses it?
‘This is about aspirations – where does this theatre want to be in 20 years’ time?’
Over the past two years the trust has been putting together a feasibility study and business plan.
First to be upgraded and extended will be the toilets, followed by improvements to the seating – including losing a row in the stalls to give more leg room, bar areas, lift access and the foyer. There will also be technical upgrades to allow the theatre to bring in larger touring shows.
And they will make sure to maintain the grade II*-listed building’s original features and style as much as possible.
Since the trust took over the operation of The Kings in 2001, it has carried out a lengthy programme of restoration, but the Big Project is more about focusing on the venue’s future, with Mr Pratt explaining that the main watchword has been ‘sustainability’.
‘There’s an awful lot of love and goodwill for this building and it’s our job to harness that and take it forward to the next level,’ said Mr Pratt.
‘We want everyone to enjoy this place because it’s supposed to be a fun factory.
‘It was built precisely so people could come out and forget themselves and enjoy something for an evening.
‘The theatre has been lived in and loved, and you can see that, and that’s what people like the most about it.’
And he adds that if the theatre is doing better, so will the area around it.
‘The theatre is a fantastic regeneration device.
‘ You get the secondary sales in restaurants, taxis, hotels – that all adds up to millions of pounds a year in the local economy, which is brilliant.’
The trust will apply to bodies such as The Arts Council and The Big Lottery Fund, but for those bids to be successful, the trust must first prove that it can raise a substantial amount of the money itself.
To make a donation to the project, go to kingsportsmouth.co.uk or make a cheque payable to Kings Theatre Trust Ltd.