Historic theatre saved by supporters and Queen Mother could be leased to King’s Lynn Arts Centre

The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret visit the Guildhall during its restoration, in 1951.

The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret visit the Guildhall during its restoration, in 1951.

King’s Lynn Arts Centre could be leased the town’s historic Guildhall Theatre, as part of a deal to transfer sports and leisure centres out of council control.

West Norfolk council wants to set up a charitable leisure trust to run Lynnsport, the Oasis at Hunstanton, Downham Market Leisure Centre, St James’s Pool and Lynn Corn Exchange. A report to councillors says the move could save the authority more than £600,000 a year.

“It is important to be aware of the clear indicators from government that the current regime of austerity is likely to continue until 2020,” it says. “Further reductions in public expenditure are likely to be paassed down to local government, resulting in continuous reductions in the level of grant provided to the borough council.”

Some 32 staff currently employed at centres and venues would all transfer to the trust under the deal.

The Guildhall Theatre is part of the historic Arts Centre complex. Built in 1410, the building was almost demolished to make way for a garage in the 1940s. But supporters including the Queen Mother rallied round and collected donations to save it. And the centre officially opened in 1951, when it hosted the first-ever Lynn Festival.

The arts centre went from being council-run to an independent arts trust two years ago. But the council retained control of the Guildhall Theatre, renting it out as a hall for hire. A transfer to the arts centre would mean the theatre would return to regular use. Councillors discuss the report next Thursday.


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