Six theatres get new improvement grants

Howard Loxton

The Theatres Trust set up its UK Small Grants Scheme in April 2012 and with support from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation and Judy Craymer MBE twice a year since has made awards of up to £5,000 each to theatres across the UK with charitable status to address urgent building repairs.

It targets theatres in need and at risk across the UK run by charities and not for profit groups that can clearly demonstrate the value capital improvements to their theatres would make to their work in local communities. Now in its ninth round, the grants this time go to the following beneficiaries.

The Place Theatre, Bedford receives £3,335 to support interior and access improvements. Part of the project will involve purchasing a portable ramp which will make the stage more accessible to disabled performers and participants. In addition, it would involve creating a backstage shower room which would support the theatre's ambition to present more physical theatre and dance. The 130-seat theatre is housed in a building that was originally a boys' club. Over the last four years, the theatre has introduced professional touring work and programmes up to 40 events a year covering contemporary theatre, music events, spoken word and family theatre.

Plough Arts Centre, Great Torrington, Devon receives £4,462 for its "Smartening Up" project which will see the roof, guttering, windows, exterior doors and external lighting repaired. The arts centre receives no regular funding despite sitting in a prominent position within Great Torrington and welcoming 70,000 visitors in 2015. Improvements to the Arts Centre will have a significant effect on the economy and profile of the local high street where it is located.

Market Theatre, Ledbury receives a grant of £5,000 towards a new, purpose-built, multi-purpose studio, which will be used for rehearsal space and as an additional dressing room space—where currently it has neither. Built in 2000, it is a volunteer-run community theatre that programmes live, touring, professional and amateur drama, music, dance and film for Ledbury, its rural catchment, as well as visitors to the town, with 9,000 paid attendances in 2015.

Grand Pavilion, Matlock Bath receives £5,000 to support its "Keeping the Water Out" project. The building is currently not water-tight and the grant will contribute towards the replacement of the guttering and the rainwater management systems to prevent further water ingress and damage to both the exterior and interior of the building. The Grand Pavilion’s condition has deteriorated in recent years and the vision is to position it back into the heart of the local community, by establishing it as a fully-refurbished theatre, multifunctional arts venue and community space. Ensuring that the building is watertight is a critical element to the future of the theatre.

Leatherhead Theatre, Surrey receives £5,000 to fund repairs to the external concrete of the building, which, if not carried out, will lead to further spalling and deterioration of the metal structure below the concrete. Building repairs are now required to reinstate the affected areas. The Grade II-listed theatre was previously known as the Thorndike Theatre and incorporates the external features of a 1930s cinema, with the interior designed by architect Roderick Ham. It is now recognised as being one of the best and most influential theatre designs of its time. The theatre mainly serves people living in the communities of Leatherhead and surrounding areas and, as well as performances and other events, the theatre runs a theatre school and performing arts classes.

Carnegie Theatre and Arts Centre, Workington receives £5,000 towards the cost of accessibility improvements. The purchase and installation of double aluminium automated self-opening and closing doors will replace a set of wooden double doors from inside the main entrance foyer leading into the main café and box office, and will make the building more accessible to people with disabilities, as well as older people and parents with pushchairs. The Carnegie, a Grade II listed building, serves one of the most deprived communities in the UK.

Applications for grants under this scheme are considered twice a year. The Trustees of the Theatres Trust will meet in June 2017 to consider the next tranche of Small Grants Scheme awards with the deadline for ten applications 16 May 2017.

Details of award criteria and an application form can be found at the Theatres' Trust web site.