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Further cash boost for Morecambe Winter Gardens announced

The Winter Gardens theatre in Morecambe

The Morecambe Winter Gardens is celebrating another funding boost just weeks after receiving its single biggest investment in more than a century.

The theatre has received a grant of £11,500 from the Theatres Trust, the national advisory body for theatres.

The money will support creating an audience development strategy, helping the building's owners the Morecambe Winter Gardens Preservation Trust to understand the priorities of local audiences, which will support future funding bids.

The announcement comes just weeks after the government awarded the theatre £2.7m towards the continuing work to bring it back to its former glory.

The Theatres Trust announced its first round of grants to be awarded through the new Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities programme, on Tuesday.

Money will go to seven theatres across the UK, all of which are on the Theatres at Risk Register.

The other theatres to receive a share of the £60,000 fund are Burnley Empire, Derby Hippodrome, Doncaster Grand, Margate Theatre Royal, Salford Victoria and Tameside Hippodrome.

The Theatres at Risk Register 2023, published by Theatres Trust in February, highlights and supports theatres across the country that are at risk of closure or demolition, and which have architectural and community merit.

The grants programme aims to help progress the restoration, reopening or revitalising of these theatres by funding expert support.

The Grade II* listed Winter Gardens opened in 1897, closing in 1977, but has reopened for many years thanks to an ongoing restoration programme.

"We are grateful for the continued support of the Theatres Trust in enabling the Trust to make even more progress with the structure and support required for the theatre," said Professor Vanessa Toulmin, chair of the Winter Gardens Preservation Trust.

"Sustaining the resilience of the organisation to ensure the long term future of the theatre is a priority that we are delightedto see supported.  

"The funding will enable us to obtain specialist support for future audience development work as the Winter Gardens increases in capacity and range, and help us scope future funding bids to secure the funding required to finally open up the Gods."

The recent government grant of £2,743,002 came from the Cultural Development Fund, and will bring a cash injection of £2.5m of capital to the building, alongside £700,000 of additional funding including £200,000 from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund. 

The funding will be used to build a new two-storey extension on the side of the grand old venue, as well as install a new lift and toilets, pay for electrical rewiring and a top-class lighting and sound system for the first time since the 1960s. 

The plan is to increase the theatre's seating capacity to 1,600 - making it the largest concert venue in North Lancashire and the South Lakes.

A further £5m would then be needed to completely restore the building as a 2,500 capacity music venue, as well as money for ongoing running costs.

The Winter Gardens will open to the public for regular tours and events each weekend, before shutting for six months at the end of September for other upgrade work to begin in October.

Related Stories: Morecambe Winter Gardens gets £2.7m boost for major expansion plans - Beyond Radio

INTERVIEW: Winter Gardens chair lays out plan to restore theatre to its heyday - Beyond Radio

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