The Salford Victoria Theatre is to be repaired and restored to a community space after being purchased by new owners.
The new owners have said they are looking to restore the 121-year-old theatre and use it again as a venue for hire.
Sam Kelly, one of four directors of the Save the Victoria Theatre Trust said: “We want to try and steer it in the direction of a community hub, as well as a live venue for hire.
“We were planning to bring it back into use as a receiving house. Because of the facilities and space at the Victoria Theatre, there would be places for meeting rooms and rehearsal space that could be hired out as well.”
The SVTT have based their plan for the Victoria Theatre on the Stockport Plaza, which is open for charity and as a receiving house.
Ms Kelly said: “Hopefully it would provide a stepping stone into the industry. What we would be aiming to do is provide a huge amount of training to anybody who volunteers, to get them into any part of the business they want
“The Victoria Theatre is not only of great historical importance to the area, but also for cultural activity, it would bring people in and really kickstart the regeneration of that area”
📣 Breaking News! 🚨
We have heard from the new owner of the Victoria Theatre building on Great Clowes Street, Lower Broughton, Salford:
“looking to repair and restore the Victoria back into a usable condition. This includes eventually reopening shopfronts and a venue for hire” pic.twitter.com/M3eN9sY8UT
— Salford Victoria Theatre Trust (@salfordvictoria) May 28, 2021
Ms Kelly said: “We’re very lucky with the sale of the theatre in many ways – we finally have an owner whose needs and interests coincides with the needs of the theatre.
“There’s a huge new population coming to Salford that are mixing with an old population from Salford.”
“The Victoria Theatre has the potential to be a great meeting point in the community – it’s a place that old Salfordians can take pride in and show off, and it’s great in a cultural sense to draw new people in”
Ms Kelly, who was raised in Salford herself, explained: “We do need to protect what little is left in Salford, because there is so little left! So much was swept away in the 70s and 80s.”
“It’s a matter of vision, but it’s also a matter of funding, and Salford City Council has had to cover essentials. There isn’t enough in the pot as it is, especially with continual cuts from central government”
“[The restoration] is going to take a lot of money. In the consultation we discussed opening the frontage and getting the front shops open first. We want to open a café where the community can meet, that would act as a base for us to fundraise.
“The area had a thriving high street before the fall down of all the Edwardian and Victorian shops. Hopefully it will generate something of a high street again, because there’ll finally be a place for people to come to.
“I think the previous owners hoped the recommendation of the building were that it be demolished. Even historic listed buildings like the Black Horse on the Crescent have been allowed to be pulled down – the listed building status hasn’t protected any heritage in Salford!”
The Victoria Theatre, which was used as a bingo hall from the 1980s until 2008, has rapidly deteriorated in the thirteen years since its closure.
Ms Kelly said: “A couple of holes had appeared on the roof after the last owner let the roof go, so water had been coming in and cascading all over the different levels of the theatre. Thank God the dry end was the stage because that couldn’t have been replaced as easily as plasterwork can be.”
The theatre has been gutted of many of its original features. Ms Kelly said: “People have been getting in and out for a very long time. It’s had all kinds of things stolen out of it.”
“There were even cannabis growers at one point! In 2017, a group had very enterprisingly bricked up the doors and hooked up an electricity feed to keep it warm. They didn’t cause any damage thankfully, just left a lot of pots!”
“The varied life of the Victoria Theatre – it all happens!”
Since their purchase of the theatre in January, the new owners have made the roof water-tight, cleaned the foliage off the building, and installed CCTV and roller shutter doors.
Ms Kelly said: “They mean business it seems! Luckily they chose to get in touch with [SVTT] so hopefully it will be the start of a beautiful relationship.”
“It’s a poor area, but an area that is ripe for regeneration, and regeneration is on the way. Hopefully the timing now is perfect, and with an owner that looks like they’re actually interested in restoration, this is the best position we’ve ever been in.”