The curtain has lifted on renovation work at one of Coventry’s oldest theatres now its long-term future has been secured. The Albany Theatre on Butts Road has signed a 25-year lease with the option of a further 25 years to occupy its existing building and, as part of the agreement, will take on 1,000 square metres of additional adjoining space.
The new space has been acquired to support its Arts for Life agenda, which aims to promote wellbeing through the arts in partnership with other organisations.
As preliminary refurbishment work starts on the new space and other areas of the theatre, a consultation is currently taking place until the autumn for the public and stakeholders to put forward ideas.
A performance studio, bar and café, box office and flexible space for socialising and working form the basis of the plans with other space available for multi-purpose use. Suggestions already include dance space as well as opportunities for digital arts.
The Albany Theatre, which is run by registered charity The Albany Theatre Trust, was able to sign the new lease after their Coventry-based solicitors, Band Hatton Button, negotiated a deal that will see Coventry City Council act as a guarantor for the charity for the first 25 years.
It comes as the number of events and visitors to the theatre are on the rise. 143 events were held at the venue last year, up from 55 in 2013/14, while audiences have doubled over the same period.
David Meredith, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Albany Theatre Trust, revealed the theatre had been running for four-and-a-half years without a lease, and was delighted with the new agreement.
He said: “Without taking on the new space we could not have secured a lease to save the theatre, and we could not have done it without the support of Coventry City Council.
“Around 4,000 young people already visit our theatre every year and we are also developing projects with older people and the rich culturally diverse population of our city. We want to establish The Albany as one of the most exciting accessible arts venues in the city whilst continually reaching out into our community.
“We are consulting as widely as we can to engage the local community and find out what Coventry people want and need in this new arts space, and then we will need to raise the funds to do the development work.
“Everyone benefits from being involved in the arts whether as a spectator, performer or volunteer, and the new space will make it possible for us to offer a wider range of opportunities for everyone and we can’t wait to see what emerges from our consultation.
“We have a wonderful group of volunteers running the theatre, supported by a small professional team, and depend on the support of organisations such as Band Hatton Button and Prime Accountants to make it all possible.”
To make the deal happen the Albany Theatre Trust’s Finance Director Laurence Moore, of Prime Accountants Group, approached Nick Button, Head of Commercial Property at Band Hatton Button solicitors, to help negotiate the lease.
Laurence added: “As a charity, the Albany Theatre has to be careful how it spends its money and not only did Nick and his team achieve a great deal for the theatre, they helped by saving the theatre thousands of pounds in costs, so support like this is invaluable.”
Preliminary works on new and existing parts of the theatre are being carried out by Harrabin Construction, while the new space is being designed by Robothams Architects. Work is expected to be completed by the end of November in line with the consultation, just in time for The Albany’s Christmas production of The Wind In The Willows which opens on December 9.
Nick Button, Head of Commercial Property at Band Hatton Button, added: “The Albany is one of Coventry’s cultural gems and we are thrilled to have struck a deal that gives it a chance to grow in the future which is fitting as the city bids to become UK City of Culture in 2021.”
Cllr John Mutton, Cabinet Member for Strategic Finance and Resources, said: “The Albany Theatre is a wonderful success story, and a much loved part of the city’s cultural life. By acting as guarantor, we can help the theatre to a more secure future and allow it to continue its valuable work in the local community.”