Published: 06:00, 16 September 2020
| Updated: 17:14, 16 September 2020
Bosses are urging the community to get behind two iconic Margate theatres to stop them closing for good.
Margate Winter Gardens and the Theatre Royal - which is the second oldest in the country - have been closed since the beginning of lockdown and their future, like others across across the UK, is looking bleak.
Operations manager Paul Palmer says the team has put in blood, sweat and tears over the past two years, since facing previous struggles, and in January they were in their strongest financial position in decades.
He says the future had been bright and the team, who now face redundancy, was buoyant. Now they instead find themselves fighting to make sure the theatres will not stay permanently shut, and Mr Palmer admits the reality is they desperately need funding to ensure a safety net to reopen in 2021.
This has led to a crowdfunder being launched to raise £150,000 in the next two months. Mr Palmer has also put in a bid through the cultural recovery fund, run through Arts Council England.
“We need this to make sure there’s some future at both theatres,” Mr Palmer said.
“Absolutely there is a threat they could close, which is why we’re hoping that anyone who has visited and enjoyed these theatres will support us so we can continue.
“Even if we get all the funding there will still be some redundancies because there is still uncertainty about customer confidence and we’ve also had to cancel some shows. It’s a very difficult time for all.”
Mr Palmer says they have reached tipping point and the situation is becoming more desperate.
“We are facing an uncertain future and we need people’s help urgently,” he said.
“When lockdown hit our income vanished overnight.”
The majority of staff were furloughed and funding applications were made for any available grants to help get through.
“We’re at the stage now where the furlough scheme is ending and we’re in the unfortunate position of redundancy consultation,” he said.
“Before lockdown we had a bright future and then Covid struck.
“Our industry is now facing it’s biggest threat in living memory and we need your help.
“If Margate was to lose these iconic venues there would be a huge knock-on effect to the area, whether that be the pubs, restaurants and hotels or theatre schools, charities - all those that benefit from these theatres.”
Mr Palmer added: “Imagine an iconic seaside town that has been working hard to recapture its glory days without the Theatre Royal and Winter Gardens.
“Imagine no highly acclaimed pantomime for the children to enjoy at Christmas.
“Imagine the original seaside without laughter, song, and dance.
“Imagine the cultural heart of the community stopping beating. Imagine a Margate with no soul.”
Mr Palmer says they are asking people to give what they can to help.
“This is a call to arms – you can be a part of Saving Margate Theatres through a kind donation to our crowdfunder campaign,” he said.
To donate, click here .