Significant investment in theatre buildings needed for sector to survive and thrive, new survey reveals

The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) & UK Theatre have today published the results of a survey demonstrating the urgent need for sustainable and systematic investment in theatre buildings.

Key findings from the survey of 65 theatre venues across the UK found:

  • 1 in 5 venues require at least £5m each in the next 10 years just to continue current operations.
  • Without significant capital investment in the next five years, nearly 40% of venues risk closure and 40% will become too unsafe to use.

However, if theatres can access the investment they need: 

  • 54% could provide more jobs for their local communities and 62% would increase or improve their outreach work.
  • 100% of venues would improve their environmental sustainability.
  • 57% would increase the variety of programming.
  • 100% of buildings built in the Victorian period would be able to increase accessibility for patrons.

Sustainable investment in theatre buildings would unlock growth for communities across the UK, maintain valuable community assets and help to create the conditions for theatre to thrive. Vital to local economic growth, for every £1 spent on a theatre ticket, £1.40 is spent within the local area.

This is demonstrated by recent investment in Hall for Cornwall, which has stood at the heart of Truro’s high street and hospitality businesses since 1847. Following a £26 million investment from nine major funders in 2018, the theatre avoided closure and has become a creative industry hub and driver for growth in Cornwall. The infrastructure project enabled the theatre to:

  • Support 29% more jobs for the local community
  • Engage more than 11,000 young people through their outreach programme
  • Hit 300,000 visits a year, a 54% increase on pre-investment audience numbers.

Currently seeking investment, Theatre Royal Plymouth attracts an audience of over 300,000 annually and engages with more than 30,000 members of the community every year. However, without necessary investment they’re having to turn away profitable set-building projects due to lack of space and are making constant repairs to outdated infrastructure. The estate is also dealing with limited access provision for customers and performers.

 £30 million in investment would enable them to:

  • Expand their workshop and provide training to address local skills shortages;
  • Refurbish and rewire their main space reducing risk of show cancellations and enabling bolder and better productions; and
  • Adapt the entire estate so that it’s fully accessible to over 400,000 artists, audiences, and participants each year.

We welcome the recent investment of £26.4 million in upgrading the National Theatre’s stages and infrastructure and the £1.6 million for Theatr Clwyd in the Spring Budget. However, the next government must ensure a systematic and strategic approach to investment in theatre buildings to maintain our world-class theatre sector and unlock potential for transformative social good and local economic growth in communities across the UK.

Jon Gilchrist, Joint President of UK Theatre commented, “Investment in theatre buildings is crucial for the future of the industry. These results show just how many theatres are in critical and urgent need of funding support to ensure that they’re fit for the audiences and productions of today and the future. 

“Theatres are a source of economic and social good at the heart of local communities. The next government needs to support investment in cultural infrastructure across the country to enable creative excellence and innovation, and to ensure the UK has a range of venues that can provide access to world-class theatre.”

Read the full results of the survey here

Read our case study on Hall for Cornwall here

Read our case study on Theatre Royal Plymouth here

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