Much-loved south Essex theatre still 'at risk' of closure amid council debt
A much-loved theatre in south Essex has been named among those in the country which are "at risk".
Theatres Trust, the charity which campaigns to protect the UK’s theatres, has published its annual 'Theatres at Risk Register', which highlights theatres across the UK under threat of closure, redevelopment or severe decay.
Thurrock Council's Thameside Theatre has been named in the "at risk" list for a second year in a row.
The popular theatre has staged professional and community shows, an annual pantomime, and hosts smaller-scale work within its studio space, since it opened in 1971.
In July 2021, Thurrock Council declared the Thameside complex surplus to requirements and asked officers to investigate the sale or disposal of the complex.
While the theatre remains open, it has no bookings past July 2023.
The council had planned to vote on its permanent closure in early 2022, but after a campaign from the community there have been discussions about retaining it as a community-run facility.
In December, comedian Russell Brand, who grew up in Grays, called on the council to save the theatre and hand it over to the community.
At an event at Thameside, he said: "The spirit of this event, good humour aside, is not about the recrimination or condemnation or engaging the typical political arguments that create a kind of ossified oppositionism, this is about creating a situation where passionate members of the community can continue to use this asset to benefit the very community that it was created to serve."
He said the council had "lost its path investing in ideas that have not yielded fruit" and added: "We simply want one thing: the Thameside Theatre be handed over to the Save Thameside Campaign."
At the time, Thurrock Council said no decision on the future of the Thameside Complex had been made.
Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan says: "As the true impact of rising construction and energy costs, cost-of-living crisis and squeezed council budgets becomes known, the challenge to secure the futures of Theatres at Risk will be more difficult than ever and there is a real fear that more operational theatres may become ‘at risk’.
"However, despite the difficulties, local support and collaborative working still pays off and the opportunities these buildings offer their communities are immense."