A REVITALISED Workington Opera House could become a thriving theatre hub for the town, according to a group which helped to make a success of a similar venture in Stockport.
The Stockport Plaza was revitalised and used to rejuvenate that town’s night-time economy.
The former bingo hall is now a cinema and theatre after it was saved from demolition by the Stockport Plaza Trust.
Gary Trinder, vice chairman and technical director of the Stockport Plaza Theatre, will visit Workington’s Helena Thompson Museum next Friday to talk to representatives of Workington’s Civic Trust and amateur theatre groups to show how this was achieved.
He will show how the Plaza’s declining fortunes were reversed and how it was restored to its former 1930s art deco glory.
He said: “It has been a catalyst for the night-time economy. It’s an iconic building in the town centre, and a blaze of neon which you can see from far away.”
Mr Trinder, who has also put on shows in the Carnegie, was speaking after a campaign group called Opera Action Ltd was set up to save the old Opera House in Pow Street and transform it into a multi-purpose theatre.
Mr Trinder said: “If they set themselves up correctly and they have support from a volunteer group, and they can get the council to see that the project is credible, then they can make it a success.”
The threat of demolition hangs over the Opera House but owner Graves (Cumberland) Ltd has given Opera Action Ltd up to 18 months to come up with a rescue plan.
Opera Action claims that the Opera House would be a better venue for development than the Carnegie because of its huge stage, 1,000-seat auditorium and town centre location.
The Plaza in Stockport functions as a cinema and a theatre, engages with schools and colleges, has its own theatre youth group and is used by amateur and professional theatre companies.
It is self-sufficient but relies heavily on its 70-strong volunteer base.
Mr Trinder said: “The simple reason we can do this where professional theatres cannot is because our paid workforce is 15 people. We don’t have a huge salary bill and can keep our operational costs to a minimum.”
But David Eve, a member of Opera Action Ltd and the Stockport Plaza Trust, stressed that he did not think the Workington Opera House could function without subsidies which would have to be looked at in a business plan.
The grade-two listed Plaza started life as a cinema in 1935 and was a bingo hall between 1965 and 1999. Stockport Plaza Trust took on the building in 2000 and it was restored in 2009, thanks to various grants and donations.
First published at 17:23, Thursday, 04 August 2011
Published by http://www.timesandstar.co.uk