The Hall For Cornwall in Truro has been held up as a prime example of how significant investment in theatre buildings can help not only the entertainment sector to survive and thrive, but also support the local economy. 

On Monday, The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) & UK published the results of a survey demonstrating the urgent need for sustainable and systematic investment in theatre buildings. 

Key findings from the survey of 65 theatre venues across the UK found that one fifth require at least £5-million each in the next decade just to continue current operations; and that without significant investment in the next five years, nearly 40 per cent of venues risk closure and/or will become too unsafe to use.

However, with investment, over half would increase their variety of programming and outreach work, and provide more jobs for local communities. All would improve their environmental sustainability, and all Victorian buildings would be able to increase accessibility for patrons.

SOLT estimates that for every £1 spent on a theatre ticket, £1.40 is spent within the local area, contributing to economic growth. 

It pointed to recent investment in Hall for Cornwall, which has stood at the heart of Truro since 1847. Following a £26-million investment from nine major funders in 2018, the theatre avoided closure and became a creative industry hub for Cornwall. 

The infrastructure project enabled the theatre to support 29 per cent more jobs for the local community, engage more than 11,000 young people through its outreach programme, and hit 300,000 visits a year — a 54 per cent increase on pre-investment audience numbers.  

The auditorium has more accessible seats and better sight lines, acoustics and comfort. Lighting and sound systems have been improved backstage, increasing the flexibility of the stage for different purposes. A pioneering pedestrian link through the building connects and regenerates the main shopping streets.

In contrast, Theatre Royal Plymouth urgently requires investment, despite attracting an audience of over 300,000 and engaging with more than 30,000 community members annually. Outdated infrastructure requires constant repairs, with profitable set-building projects turned away due to lack of space. 

A £30 million investment would enable it to rewire its main space, reducing risk of show cancellations and enabling bolder and better productions; address local skills shortages, and adapt to be fully accessible to over 400,000 artists, audiences and participants annually.

Jon Gilchrist, joint president of UK Theatre, said: “Theatres are a source of economic and social good at the heart of local communities. The next government needs to support investment in cultural infrastructure to enable creative excellence and innovation, and to ensure the UK has a range of venues that can provide access to world-class theatre.”