A feasibility study looking into the future of the Grand Theatre in Doncaster has found that the building could partly re-open over the next few years once repair works are completed.
The working group – made up of officers from City of Doncaster Council, Doncaster Culture and Leisure Trust, local elected members, the Theatres Trust, the Friends of Doncaster Grand and building owners, The Frenchgate – commissioned the feasibility study in September 2022.
The study – looking into the future of the theatre - found that 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 also added that the theatre must add to the overall vitality of the city centre offer and complement existing city venues.
The study further determined that the building needed to avoid more deterioration to the building fabric and that certain works must 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 get back to some small-scale performances, such as music gigs, comedy and business events, without the full amount of investment needed, but repair works to the parapet, valley gutters, interiors and downpipes 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. Exploration is now underway into bringing a special purpose organisation into the theatre, which would help take this to the next stage.
Capacity – without the full external investment needed – would be fairly limited, with developments around the theatre and limited escape routes reducing the theatre to a capacity of around 450-500.
The study concluded with a recommendation that a phased approach for the theatre be put in place, with funding helping the theatre re-open to small scale use first, such as business networking events, shining the spotlight on the theatre for higher levels of funding, to compliment rather than compete with, any other performance venues.
Cabinet member for Public Health, Communities, Leisure and Culture at City of Doncaster Council, Cllr Nigel Ball, said: “This is still relatively early days in this new journey for the Grand Theatre, but I am delighted that this study, which has involved lots of work and resulted in a very large and comprehensive report, has found that 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, and hopeful, 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 that 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 and that can only be good for all in our city.”
Siân Eagar, Theatres at Risk Adviser, at the Theatres Trust, said: “Theatres Trust welcomes the collaborative approach that is being taken to reviving Doncaster Grand, which has been on our Theatres at Risk Register since 2006 when we started the list. We believe the Grand has real potential to be restored and returned to cultural use but recognise that a phased approach will be the best way of securing its future. It will be a long journey, but it will be worth the investment to revitalise this wonderful building for the people of Doncaster."
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