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The Orchard Theatre in Dartford to remain closed for a year as Dartford council plans multi-million-pound rebuild

A theatre containing RAAC concrete in its roof has been forced to shut for a year.

Dartford council has revealed it is going to cost £7 million to safely reopen The Orchard Theatre, in Home Gardens, Dartford.

The Orchard Theatre, in Home Gardens, Dartford was forced to close after RAAC was discovered in its ceiling
The Orchard Theatre, in Home Gardens, Dartford was forced to close after RAAC was discovered in its ceiling

It closed its doors on Tuesday, September 5, following an inspection the day before.

It was carried out after the Department for Education confirmed 156 schools across the country had to close after ceilings built with concrete had collapsed.

At the time, Trafalgar Entertainment, which manages the venue, confirmed performances would be postponed until at least the end of September. This date was later changed to Tuesday, October 31.

This included comedian Jimmy Carr, who was due to appear at the beginning of last month, an evening with Harry Redknapp on September 24 and Babatunde Aleshe on September 30.

A report put together for the General Assembly of the Council meeting, due to be held on Monday, October 16, says it is “estimated that the theatre could be closed for approximately 12 months with a potential for a significant loss in revenue/financial risk for both Trafalgar Theatres and the council as well as causing an economic impact on the town centre and the public loss of service”.

Orchard Theatre could remain closed for 12 months
Orchard Theatre could remain closed for 12 months

In the report, it is explained that although no Dartford council staff are directly affected by the issues it should be “noted that more than 20 full-time staff are employed by Trafalgar Theatres at the venue and there are 120 casual staff on the payroll”.

The agenda also showed that the council contemplated the permanent closure of the theatre.

However, it stated, “the social and cultural value that the theatre delivers far outweighs this option”.

It was previously stated that ticket holders should wait to be contacted by the venue with information about rescheduled dates or, where this was not possible, full reimbursement.

The council has not yet announced what is due to happen with this year’s Christmas panto performance.

The Orchard Theatre in Dartford
The Orchard Theatre in Dartford

Soap star Shona McGarty was due to take the lead role in Beauty and the Beast from December 9 until New Year’s Eve.

Other shows affected by the closure include Frankie Boyle, on November 13, Sister Sledge on November 14, Gareth Malone on November 26, Showaddywaddy on January 6, Swan Lake on January 17/18 Jan, Jimmy Carr on February 3, Stranger Things on February 12/13 Feb and Anton Du Beke on March 3.

A Dartford council spokesperson said: “We’ve previously said that Dartford Borough Council is working with Trafalgar Theatres to minimise the impact on performances while RAAC is removed from The Orchard Theatre’s roof.

“This is substantial work and we are determined to minimise the disruption to the theatre, its staff and local businesses that depend on its trade.

“As a public authority we operate with full transparency and the process of creating alternative provision during the time the Orchard Theatre is closed is something we are committed to share openly.

“Both the council and Trafalgar Theatres are working hard on alternative arrangements to explore whether performances that would have taken place at The Orchard Theatre can take place within an alternative setting and this item is the first step towards that. We expect to make an announcement within a very short time.

“At the heart of all this is our absolute commitment to providing entertainment in the borough and also carrying out the repairs to the theatre that will see it serving Dartford for many decades to come.

“In those circumstances, we would ask ticket holders to future performances to wait for further information from The Orchard Theatre.”

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