‘Urgent’ funding and repairs required before theatre can re-open

A feasibility study exploring the future of the disused Grand Theatre in Doncaster has found the building could partly re-open over the next few years, but only once repair works have been completed.

The working group – comprising officers from City of Doncaster Council, Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust, the Theatres Trust, the Friends of Doncaster Grand and building owners, The Frenchgate – commissioned the study in September 2022.

The study found it would be economically beneficial for the city to work towards re-opening the theatre but this must be done as a phased approach and urgent funding and repair works are needed first.

The report further determined the building must avoid more deterioration to its fabric and that certain works should be undertaken before opening in any capacity – with external funding needed to get the theatre back to full working use.

It is however suggested that the theatre could host small-scale performances, such as music gigs, comedy and business events, without the full amount of investment needed.

But some repair works are needed to avoid further decay and ensure public safety. These works are to be undertaken “in the very near future” once consents have been acquired.

Cabinet member for public health, communities, leisure and culture at City of Doncaster Council, Councillor Nigel Ball, said: “This is still relatively early days in this new journey for the Grand Theatre, but I am happy that this study has found there is an opportunity for the Grand Theatre to be brought back to life, albeit in a safe and phased manner.

“The Grand Theatre is not a council building and the funding needed for the full restoration of this theatre is vast and given the above will need external support to help with this.

“I am confident however that work can be progressed with the owners Frenchgate, to bring some of the building at least back into some form of use, in the near future.”

Ken Waight, chair of the Friends of Doncaster Grand Theatre, said: “After so many years of inactivity, this report and its findings is very welcome, particularly that the Grand can be brought back into some use, relatively soon, leading eventually to full reopening.

“We accept there is a lot of work needed and substantial funding to be found, but hopefully a proper plan for modern use of the theatre will now be established.”

Siân Eagar, Theatres at Risk Adviser, at the Theatres Trust, added: “We believe the Grand has real potential to be restored and returned to cultural use.

“It will be a long journey, but it will be worth the investment to revitalise this wonderful building for the people of Doncaster.”

The theatre, in Trafford Way, was built in 1899 and operated as such until 1963, when it became a bingo hall operated by Mecca Bingo. It eventually closed in 1995 and has been derelict ever since.

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