Thanet District Council Cabinet to consider recommendation to set up a new trust to run and manage the Theatre Royal in Margate

Thanet District Council Cabinet to consider recommendation to set up a new trust to run and manage the Theatre Royal in Margate
Photo Credit - Thanet District Council

Members of Thanet District Council’s Cabinet will review a recommendation to set up a new independent charitable trust. If agreed, the trust would be established to operate the Theatre Royal and 19 Hawley Square in Margate. Any next steps are also subject to the success of funding applications, totalling £7.5m. 

In March 2021, £2.2million was allocated to the project from the Margate Town Deal. Since then, an ambitious new vision has been set. It focuses on the Theatre Royal’s 245 years of history. It combines heritage, performance and a move towards financial sustainability. The vision reflects the need to conserve, restore and modernise both the theatre and 19 Hawley Square. The aim is to create a ‘nationally significant performing arts hub’ in Margate. 

This vision was shared in a survey and at public and stakeholder engagement events in December 2023. Having reached over 19,000 people, support for the new vision is clear.

The council has applied to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the Cultural Development Fund. The latter is administered by Arts Council England, on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. If successful, these applications will mean a further £7.5million in funding. It will support refurbishment and redevelopment of Theatre Royal and 19 Hawley Square as a performing arts hub.

The funding applications are based on significant evidence. This is to ensure that the future operation of the theatre is sustainable and that management plans work.

Subject to approval from Cabinet, a new charitable entity will be designed and set up for the purpose. The recommended model prioritises local engagement and partnerships. It focuses on cultural, heritage and socio-economic, legal and governance rather than profit. This approach significantly increases the likelihood of securing the £7.5million, a combination of capital and revenue funding. It means the council could pass on programming and engagement requirements, which are conditions of receiving external funding. This is a proven model already used by similar sized theatres.

In January 2024, early engagement with 16 potential operators took place. The viability of the recommendations was tested with them. It has also been feasibility tested by external specialists, and consultation has been undertaken with potential funders.

Cllr Ruth Duckworth, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Property, said: “The Theatre Royal in Margate is a unique theatre with an impressive 245 year heritage. This is recognised by the Theatres Trust which has included it on its ‘theatres at risk’ list. 

“The scope of the refurbishment project is undeniably ambitious, but if external funding can be secured, I believe that it is achievable, and promises a long and successful future for both the theatre and 19 Hawley Square. I look forward to reviewing the proposals with Cabinet.”

 

A trust could provide high quality and imaginative programmes, marketing and audience development proposals. It would also create maintenance proposals and an investment or fundraising programme. The trust would also develop educational programmes, outreach work and other community activities. Such programmes could support fundraising and project development. If agreed, the trust would operate all functions within the venue for a period of at least 10 years. This would include everything from venue programming, ticketing, to technical and facilities management.