Can event planners help save at-risk theatres?

Experts say many UK theatres are at risk of being demolished but events can bring in much-needed funds.

Last week, the Theatres Trust warned that dozens of UK theatres are at risk of demolition and urged more support and investment in these buildings. The amount of funding available for theatres has fallen in the past decade, particularly from local authorities. 

In many cases, theatres are at risk because money is needed for repairs. The Theatres Trust says that around 30% of the 177 theatres that have been on the Theatres at Risk list since it began in 2006 need money for urgent repairs or upgrades to continue to function. Their 2018 survey showed that more than £550million is needed within five years.

Tom Stickland, an advisor at the Theatres Trust, told C&IT that event planners could help to fund crucial repairs. 

“The UK is rightly proud of its theatrical heritage – world-class playwrights like Shakespeare, Pinter and Prebble, the great stars of variety and also its palatial theatre buildings,” said Stickland.

“By using theatres for your events, you are playing a part in maintaining these beautiful buildings and protecting the country’s rich cultural history. Event hire provides a vital lifeline to theatre buildings, without which even the most beloved theatres could not survive.”

There are around 1,100 active theatres in the country ranging from tiny community spaces up to the 3,000-seater Edinburgh Playhouse.

“Working in the theatre sector, we are spoilt for choice when it comes to beautiful places to host our own conferences, workshops and drinks receptions. But those outside of our industry aren’t perhaps as aware of what brilliant spaces there are that could be perfect for a conference or launch.”

Theatres can be capable of very innovative and ambitious technical productions, with the added benefit of being steeped in history, he said. 

“Your speakers could be treading the very same boards as stars like Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy or Laurence Olivier. Staging an event in a beautiful auditorium adds a touch of drama and a sense of occasion, and theatre technicians can provide perfect lighting and sound."

Adam Blackwood, founder and creative director at events agency Private Drama Events, has produced events at theatres in the past. “We regularly consider staging events in these fantastic and characterful buildings,” he said.

“I have often proposed putting on an event at Wilton’s Music Hall. A few years ago we staged a party at the Roxy in Camden which included dinner, a performance by the West End cast of Chicago and dancing till dawn.

"Theatres are great venues for events as they are normally soundproofed and lend themselves to our storytelling skills.”

See the Theatres Trust's 'Theatres At Risk Register' to find out which theatres are at greatest risk across the UK. 

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