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Margate: Soho Theatre group pull out of Theatre Royal take over

The future of Britain's second oldest theatre is in jeopardy after a much-celebrated merger with Soho Theatre collapsed following a failed bid to secure funding for major renovation works.

The stunning Theatre Royal Margate - which is owned by Thanet District Council (TDC) - is currently the second most at risk theatre in the UK on a register commissioned by the Theatre's Trust.

Built in 1784, it is currently run by Your Leisure, which was tasked with looking after the building in 2012 after it fell into financial difficulties. It is subsidised by both TDC and Kent County Council.

Theatre Royal Margate (4499982)
Theatre Royal Margate (4499982)

TDC carried out a viability assessment in 2014 to see how it could become financially self-sufficient.

The lease for the building was put out to tender, which the Soho Theatre Group won on the proviso it secured funding to carry out substantial works to the building to ensure its survival.

This included a new bar and reconfiguration of the entrance. There were also talks about a restaurant being built within the building.

But at the last hurdle the Soho Theatre Group, which runs a successful operation in London, was turned down for funding and may have to pull out of the proposal unless a solution is found.

Theatre Royal Margate (4499982)
Theatre Royal Margate (4499982)

A Spokesman for Your Leisure says it will continue to "work with their partners to ensure the continued success of the Theatre Royal."

Despite the setback both parties are keen to ensure the theatre has a future.

Talks were due to be held yesterday (Tuesday) to established how the proposal now moves forward.

Madeline Homer, TDC chief executive, said: "Thanet District Council is committed to retaining the Theatre Royal as a theatre and will be looking at options which will deliver this."

News of the theatre's troubles comes as the future of several other prominent Thanet landmarks has recently been discussed.

The Tudor House, Margate Museum and Town Hall, and Dickens House in Broadstairs, all require significant investment, which the council it says it cannot afford.

Tudor House, King's Street, Margate. picture Mike Waterman (4502159)
Tudor House, King's Street, Margate. picture Mike Waterman (4502159)

At an executive, policy and committee meeting held last Tuesday, the council discussed options to pass ownership of the historic buildings to volunteer groups or charities to ensure their survival.

All three buildings will be marketed as going concerns through for transfer to independent charities or other appropriate community organisations, as defined in the Community Asset Transfer Policy.

The town hall's lease includes a caveat allowing Margate Charter Trustees space for their public functions.

A vote on the options will take place at the next cabinet meeting.

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