A CAMPAIGN has been launched to restore the historic Crown Theatre in Eccles back to its former glory.
The Grade II listed building, on Liverpool Road, has already narrowly escaped being demolished many times, the most recent being December 2015.
However, with new threats to the building being posed everyday, Jon Grieves set up a campaign group to help save and restore the theatre.
Jon said: “It opened as a working class theatre for the working man. It was the first theatre in Eccles, so let’s not make it the last and demolish it.”
The group began to grow in summer last year and has been gathering interest since the installation of a mural on the façade of the building, which was panted by artist Bree Hughes.
The mural depicts the hoped future of the theatre.
He added: “We want to turn it into an arts hub, somewhere Eccles can get creative, the main things we want to focus on are theatre, performance, dance, music art and photography.
“As an homage to its history the new community arts hub would be named the Eccles Lyceum, which we feel would be a fitting tribute.”
The group want to recreate the social atmosphere of the former Bingo Hall by integrating a café and meet up area into the building and create rooms for community groups to use.
“It would be a multifunctional space, which would benefit the Eccles community immensely.”
So far their Facebook page has almost 500 likes and their petition has gathered 215 signatures. They also have a variety of campaign videos available on YouTube.
“It is clear that the people of Eccles want to keep the building and ultimately part of their heritage.”
Alma Jones, 88, a life-long Eccles resident, reminisced about the former glory of the theatre: “I used to be in there all the time. It was a social hub for me to meet friends and socialise, and when it was converted into a bingo hall – I was never out of there, I loved it.
“It’s a shame to see a building you loved so much fall into disrepair.”
Since closing in the 1980s, the building deteriorated slowly due to neglect and a lack of funds to keep up maintenance.
After an arson attack in 2013, the theatre was no longer structurally safe as the inside of the building was ruined, many original features of the building were also lost in the fire.
Jon added: “I believe that there are now plans for The Crown to be demolished, which is why the campaign is trying so hard to raise the funds to buy out the current owner.
“Fundraising is the main aim of our public meetings, we’re trying to figure out where how we can raise funds.
“The campaign currently has the backing of Salford and Eccles MP Rebecca Long-Bailey, which has been a great boost for the group.”
The building was listed in 2003 after Ty Jeffries began lobbying the council to have the building protected in order to prevent it from being developed into flats.
After a short campaign, the building was classed as a Grade II listed building, with English Heritage noting that “the Crown Theatre is a rare surviving example of a suburban working-class theatre that still retains the original form of its auditorium and front of house”.
Despite those plans being stopped, there have been many proposed attempts to turn the building into housing, the most notable being as part of the Salford City Council’s Liverpool Road Corridor 10 Year Strategy (2007-17).
Jon expressed: “The longer the building is left to deteriorate the harder it will be for it to be saved and preserved, we need as much help as we can get to save the Crown Theatre.”
Public meetings will be held at the Nur Malaysia Community Café, just a short walk from the theatre, on Tuesday, May 10 and Tuesday, May 24 at 7pm.
“We welcome everyone to our meetings as we want as much input from local people we can get, it is a community project so we need the community to get involved and help save this beautiful building.”