Built in 1911 the Grand Theatre has been a focal point within the town for 105 years and has undergone metamorphosis many times. Originally designed as a 500-seat capacity theatre,the building saw the first of many changes in 1935
when capacity was almost doubled to 950 seats and was re-designed as an Art Deco Egyptian-style cinema, a function it would continue to serve until 1968. In the subsequent 49 years it has been a bingo hall and the home of various nightclubs but, importantly it has managed to retain a stage, auditorium, circle, projection room and Art Deco internal decoration in addition to the more modern bar and toilet facilities and can, in essence, still be used as a venue for a wide spectrum of performing arts.
It is now, however, that the need for a concrete plan for the future of the Grand has arrived.
Despite having thousands of Facebook followers and universal support from local performing groups, the Theatre’s Trust and The Stage, a demonstrable call to action has to be undertaken by supporters.
In addition, an open and frank line of communication needs to be established with the current owners, Manor Inns Ltd, based in Coventry, to find a feasible working partnership and an agreed upon path forward.
Community activism to save local performance spaces is nothing new and smaller towns across the UK have successfully come together to save would be developments destroying buildings of cultural import including Ayr, Dudley and Chipping Norton.
Costings already exist for converting The Grand to a performance space which is estimated to be in the region of £2 million,including purchase. The trusts at Dudley and Ayr which have challenged threats to their local theatres have already offered assistance with business plans and cash-flow forecasts.
Mr Kinchin-Smith said: “If we cannot pull together as a community to bring this building back into use as a community hub and performance space, no one else will do it for us and this unique space, and all that it could be, will be lost to us for ever.”
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