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Community News - April/May 23

Community News From Around Our Area

The Albany Theatre Celebrates its 10th Anniversary!

In an extraordinary story, staff and volunteers have shown exceptional perseverance to run and develop a theatre for 10 years that now boasts record ticket sales and growing community engagement.

The Albany Theatre on the edge of Coventry City Centre, has been through its fair share of challenging times. The theatre was closed in 2008. However, since the re-opening of the theatre in 2013 a huge amount of improvement has taken place, and everyone involved is excited for the next stage.

Successes include:

  • The launch of a Youth Theatre, and growth of creative outreach in city schools and the community.
  • The creation of an inhouse productions company, Albany Productions, producing hugely successful theatre productions such as A Christmas Carol.
  • The growth in partnerships with local and national performers and promoters, including Ballet Theatre UK and Giovanni Pernice, star of Strictly Come Dancing fame, who has performed six times at the theatre since 2017.
  • Over 20 interns and apprentices launching careers in the Arts.
  • Hundreds of volunteers have assisted with front of house duties and technical theatre production backstage.

This incredible transformation has been recognised by the West Midland Tourism Awards who have selected the theatre as a 2023 finalist in their Resilience and Innovation category.

The future is also bright due to the transformation taking place thanks to Coventry City Council’s capital funding. The redevelopment incorporates additional ground floor sections of the former college building and the courtyard. There will be a new studio theatre, two further studios, a café and larger foyer area, volunteer room, extra green rooms, and new toilet facilities, including a changing facility.

The improvements will allow the theatre to open its doors to even more local groups and performers, playing a critical role as a creative hub in the city, enabling access to the arts for all.

It wasn’t always like this… it’s been quite the rollercoaster ride!

In the late 2000s the City College faced acute financial pressures. Due to the campaign to save the 1930s auditorium, led by Alan Biddle and Coventry Musical Theatre Consortium, the City Council insisted on a “Section 106” planning condition. This aimed to ensure the theatre would be saved for the community when the college building was finally sold to developers. In 2008, after the final students moved out, the theatre closed its doors and went dark.

The Section 106 planning condition required the site’s owners to establish “The Butts Theatre Trust” (a charitable trust that would operate the re-opened Theatre) “as soon as is reasonably practical” following the appointment of a “Theatre Development Manager”.

Once established, the Trust set about bringing the theatre building back to life. From June 2012, a small army of volunteers - many who had been involved in the campaign to save the theatre - planned and carried out repairs and developments. An estimated £100,000 of time and donated materials, supported by residual grant funding of around £50,000 from Coventry City Council, led to a formal re-opening of the auditorium in February 2013. This took place with local celebrities and Council officials opening the theatre.

Chief Executive and Artistic Director Kevin Shaw said, “I am delighted to be celebrating this landmark in the Albany Theatre’s history. The current team are grateful to so many local people who gave their time and effort to get us to this point. The capital funding from the Council for this next chapter is going to make a huge difference, enabling more local community groups to use the spaces and engage with our arts programme.”

Chair David Meredith said, “Against all the odds, with such incredible dedication and determination from staff and many volunteers, we have overcome the many challenges put in front of us. With our new, exciting developments coming later this year, a truly sustainable future is in sight.”