7 December, 2023

Operators invited to respond to plans for the Theatre Royal in Margate

Thanet District Council has launched the search for a new operator for the Theatre Royal Margate, in line with its vision for the historic theatre, which combines heritage, performance and a move towards financial sustainability. 

The ambitious project focuses on the Theatre Royal Margate’s 245 years of performance heritage, bringing together the need to conserve, restore and modernise both the theatre and the building at 19 Hawley Square. The ambition is to create a nationally significant performing arts hub in Margate; the plans are designed to increase the artistic and financial opportunities to support the historic theatre and to raise the profile of performing arts in the district.

Thanet District Council is now seeking to engage with potential operators, to test the market and to help inform its procurement exercise for the Theatre Royal Margate operating model. 

The council would like to hear from: 

  • Existing operators of theatres and other similar arts and entertainment venues
  • Performing arts organisations seeking to expand and/or relocate to operate the theatre 
  • Smaller organisations and/or small groups and consortia interested in becoming part of a new organisation to operate the theatre

The successful operator will be expected to operate all functions within the venue for a period of at least 10 years. These are expected to include venue programming, ticketing, event promotion and management, hospitality, backstage and technical and facilities management. 

When appointed, the operator will need to provide high quality and imaginative programmes, marketing and audience development proposals, maintenance proposals and an investment or fundraising programme. In addition, they will be required to submit ideas to develop educational programmes, outreach work and other community activities, to support fundraising and project development.

A questionnaire will help to inform the council’s understanding of the market and confirm whether this opportunity is of interest to relevant and experienced organisations. Alongside questions about the type and size of the organisation responding, further questions are included around the feasibility of the vision, potential programming and the resources operators will require (external funding and investment) to support the project. 

Interested operators or local consortia are invited to complete a pre-engagement questionnaire by  5pm on Wednesday 24 January 2024. Details explaining how to register can be found on the council’s website. At this stage, this is a market-testing exercise and not a call for competition.

The Theatre Royal project has been allocated £2.2m of funding as part of the £22.2m Margate Town Deal programme of regeneration in the town. In addition, the council is seeking funding to invest up to £5 million in the fabric of the building. An application is in process for a further £3.2m from the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the council is in conversation with the Arts Council regarding the possibility of applying to the Department of Culture Media and Sport’s Cultural Development Fund, which will be launched in 2024. 

The successful operator will be expected to participate in planning the scale and scope of the works to the buildings. To facilitate this there will be a development phase of around two years, prior to the full operator agreements being in place. 

There will be no direct long term subsidy, but the council is making a significant contribution in the form of a building adjacent to the theatre (19 Hawley Square) to be used for creative and income-generating purposes. It is estimated that this building could contribute considerable income to boost the financial viability of the theatre operations. 

Cllr Ruth Duckworth, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Property, said: “Our ambitious plans for the Theatre Royal and 19 Hawley Square provide a unique opportunity for an established theatre operator or consortium to work with us to redevelop the theatre.

“We are looking for an operator with the vision and experience to partner with us to build on the theatre’s impressive pedigree, providing a real hub for performing arts in Thanet. I look forward to seeing how the project progresses – I am confident that the Theatre Royal Margate has a bright future ahead.”

Initial plans for the Theatre Royal Margate and 19 Hawley Square will be shown for the first time at a public event at the theatre on Thursday 7 December 2023. Local residents and stakeholders are invited to provide their feedback on the project via an online survey on Your Voice Thanet. The survey closes at 4pm on Wednesday 20 December and the plans can be viewed on the council’s website

Further information on the Theatre Royal project and the Margate Town Deal regeneration programme can be viewed on the council’s website

Share this story