‘Don’t leave us in a cultural desert’
A CAMPAIGN group has been formed in a bid to preserve the legacy of a century-old former theatre.
North Tyneside Council is to bulldoze the old Borough Theatre, in High Street East, Wallsend, saying the building which was built in 1909 has been empty for several years and is in a poor condition.
But campaigners argue the facility could be refurbished and turned into a cultural entertainment venue.
A group called Save The Borough Theatre has been started by three Wallsend residents – Steve Allen, Slim Palmer and Ian Hobson – and nearly 300 people have joined the campaign on Facebook.
Mr Palmer, 54, said: “The Borough was a palace of entertainment for the working man of Wallsend. It looks plain from the outside but on the inside it has some unique features. For example, it has a sun burner, which was a lighting arrangement used by the Victorians. There is also a gas plate that Victorians and Edwardians used for stage lighting.
“These things have a lot of historical value and we are saying that even if the physical building can’t be saved, we could at least preserve some of these architectural features.
“But the main reason for our campaign is to try to save the theatre. It should be turned into a facility which can be enjoyed by families. At the moment, we have either the Whitley Bay Playhouse or theatres in Newcastle, which are miles away. We are slap bang in the middle of a cultural desert.”
The London-based Theatres Trust, which promotes the value of theatres across the country, also wrote to the council and urged officials to reconsider their decision. Despite the efforts, the council says the demolition is set to go ahead as planned. However opportunities to preserve internal features will be explored. Mhora Samuel, director of the Trust, said: “We remain dismayed at the council’s determination to demolish the Wallsend Borough Theatre despite enormous support from locals.
“In our communications with the council, it seems even a short-term reprieve to assess alternative options for the future of the building and cultural provision in Wallsend does not appear to be possible.”
A council spokesman said: “The council has acquired the building in order to bring forward beneficial development. The council intends to demolish the building and the land will be freed up for a mix of commercial and residential development, to benefit residents and businesses.
“We have invited the Theatres Trust to access the building before demolition begins, in order to salvage any internal fixtures or fittings which may be of historical value or interest.”