27th Jul, 2021

Ambitious 'Arts for Life' plan for Coventry's Albany Theatre to go before council

A REPORT on the future of Coventry’s the Albany Theatre will go before the city council’s cabinet members in the coming weeks.

If it is backed by councillors, a number of improvements will be carried out including building three new studio spaces and enhancements to the front of house and café.

The report sets out a proposal to award a grant of £2.908million as part of a long-term plan by the Albany Theatre Trust to deliver ‘Arts for Life’.

The Albany Theatre is identified as a significant cultural asset for Coventry, and in recent years attendances have been increasing alongside its outreach and training programmes.

The investment in the theatre will enable it to be fit-for-the-future and will provide new opportunities to increase its impact and contribute to the legacy of Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture.

At the same time, it will strengthen the operating Albany Theatre Trust, which aims to double its turnover and become a more sustainable business.

Coun David Welsh, Cabinet Member for Housing and Communities, said: “It has been a difficult time for everyone in the past year, particularly those businesses in the cultural and hospitality sectors.

“As a council – especially during the Coventry’s year as UK City of Culture – we believe it is vital that we help to create sustainable models for the future, capable of delivering our ambitions as a cultural city.

“We want to enable the theatre trust to achieve its ambition to grow as an important cultural asset for the city and engage a wide age range of people through an expanded offer.

“The Albany theatre requires investment in a new and improved facility for the long-term, that can deliver a wide-ranging programme and cement its role as a significant cultural venue.

“At the same time, appreciating the difficult operating environment, we need the Trust to ensure its project and business planning is robust for the future.”

David Meredith, Chair of the Albany Theatre Trust, said: “It’s over 15 years since Coventry’s far-sighted councillors committed to saving the former Butts Theatre when Coventry College moved out.

“Although we signed a 50-year lease in 2017 it’s taken the Trust and our many volunteers over ten years to build up to this point.

“We are very grateful to have secured enough revenue support from a range of sources to sustain us through this exciting development phase.

“Our challenge was to give Councillors confidence to commit to the city’s investment in this important community asset.

“Covid and the associated lockdowns have truly brought home the need for human interaction and creativity.”

Before the lockdown closure between 4,000 and 5,000 children and young people performed at the Albany every year with many thousands more enjoying taking part in events.

Mr Meredith added: “The council’s investment will enable us to increase support for the young generation’s recovery from the scars of lockdown – they know they are investing in future mental health and wellbeing, and for that reason alone this is so important for the city.”

Martin Sutherland, Chief Executive at Coventry City of Culture Trust, said: “The Albany Theatre is crucial to the arts and culture offering in Coventry.

“Everyone is aware of the impact that the pandemic has had on the arts and culture sector, so these improvements could support their sustainability and be a significant boost to the local arts sector.”

The Albany Theatre Trust is an independent company limited by guarantee, with charitable status. It is responsible for the operation of the Albany Theatre.

The theatre has successfully attracted emergency funding from the Arts Council England as well as from private benefactors and in 2020 the Trust appointed a new Chief Executive and Artistic Director Kevin Shaw.

Mr Shaw has led the development of an ambitious new business plan to deliver the Trust’s Mission – to promote wellbeing through Arts for Life.

The proposed capital project includes:

• Redevelopment of the existing studio theatre which will be acoustically isolated, enabling it to be used more readily when other areas of the building are active.

• Addition of three new flexible spaces for community performances, and to be rented out for education and outreach activities.

• Addition of a new café and improvements to the front-of-house areas providing increased opportunity for secondary income.

The capital project programme can begin as soon as funding is agreed, and conditions are met.

Work is expected to begin on site before the end of the year and all be completed in time for the Albany’s winter programme in 2022.

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