The Theatres Trust is the National Advisory Public Body for Theatres in the United Kingdom. Theatres Trust is the national advisory public body for theatres. We champion the past, present and future of live theatre, by protecting the buildings and what goes on inside. It was founded to “promote the better protection of theatres for the benefit of the nation”. The Trust has played a leading role in protecting theatre buildings for the duration of its history.
Through providing advice on planning and development, supplying resources and advice to make theatres sustainable and offering financial assistance through grants. It provides specialist advice to a variety of stakeholders throughout Britain to assist with the promotion and preservation of theatre buildings. The Trust’s central aim is to “ensure that current and future generations have access to good quality theatres that reflect our cultural life and offer inspiring places to enjoy theatre”. The Trust also holds historical and architectural records of many theatre buildings throughout the United Kingdom, which is made available online as part of a “Theatres Database”.
The Trust is administered by The Theatres Trust Charitable Fund, a registered charity under English law. Theatres Trust help people discover more about theatres and campaign for theatres at risk.
The Theatres Trust was established by the Theatres Trust Act 1976 which had a central focus of ensuring “that current and future generations have access to good quality theatres that reflect our cultural life and offer inspiring places to enjoy theatre”. The Trust offers guidance and advice relating to planning, heritage, regeneration and development, architecture and design which concern theatres. The Trust’s remit covers a wide range of buildings which include theatres, old and new, in current use, in other uses, or disused. Notably, it also includes ciné-variety buildings or structures that have been converted to theatre, circus buildings and performing art centres.
The Theatres Trust is a statutory consultee, as defined by the legislation within the Theatres Trust Act 1976 and is accordingly consulted on any planning application or development involving land on which there is a theatre or which will affect theatre use. Consequently, local authorities are legally required to notify the Trust when planning applications are submitted that fall within the remit of the trust. Additionally, the Trust is consulted on all Local Development Frameworks, Planning Briefs, Area Action Plans and Cultural Quarters consultations that relate to cultural and leisure facilities.
While the Theatres Trust Act 1976 (and with it the Trust) originally applied only to England and Wales, it was extended to Scotland by the Theatres Trust (Scotland) Act 1978.
The Theatres Trust currently offers a number of resources that contribute towards the promotion of the better protection of theatres:
Ecovenue – A three-year programme which ran from 2009–2012 backed by the European Regional Development Fund to provide 48 theatres in London with specialist theatre environmental advice and help to develop an Environmental Policy.
Exploring Theatres – An online learning resource, aimed principally at educational establishments which provides information about the history, design and management of theatre in the United Kingdom.
Theatres Database/Image Library – The Trust maintains a record of the architectural and historic features of around 4,000 theatres past and present throughout the United Kingdom. Additionally, around 1,000 images relating to these theatres, both historical and contemporariness, are made available on the Trust’s website.
Theatre Buildings at Risk – Seeking to mirror English Heritage’s Heritage at Risk Register and the Buildings at Risk Register for Scotland, the Theatres Trust annually produces a register of theatre buildings at risk of demolition or closure.
Advice & Guidance – Clause 2C of the Theatres Trust Act 1976 specifies that the Theatres Trust is able “to maintain or assist in the maintenance of any theatre”. This includes the provision of information, advice and guidance. Specialist advice is made available for a wide range of issues which relate to theatres. These include advice on planning applications that relate to the regeneration and development of theatres, theatre design and any other issues relating to wider planning or heritage matters that relate to theatre buildings.
The Theatres Trust currently employs eight members of staff who perform a variety of tasks to help facilitate the Trust’s central remit. The Trust is governed by fifteen trustees who are appointed by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. These Trustees are appointed due to their expertise in a wide range of differing areas including theatre management, planning law and the performing arts (who include Penelope Keith and Dara Ó Briain). The Chairman of the Trust is currently Tim Eyles.
Paragraph 1A of the Schedule to the Theatres Trust Act 1976 requires that “one of the trustees shall be a person who appears to the Secretary of State to have special knowledge of Scotland”. The Secretary of State is required to consult the Scottish Ministers before appointing such a trustee.
The Theatres Trust owns the freeholds of The Garrick, Lyceum and Lyric Theatres in London and this is the principal source of its income base. These freeholds were transferred to the Trust by the London Residuary Body, following the abolition of the Greater London Council, to protect and ensure the continued operation of the theatres. The rest of its funding is mostly derived from proceeds from events held by the Theatres Trust and donations by supporters.
Theatres Trust promote the quality and design of existing and new theatres and protect important historic theatres so that they can be used as theatres in the future. The Trust also advises to ensure theatre buildings meet the current needs and demands of the theatre industry and the audiences they serve.