Another blow to Croydon’s pretence of having a rich and thriving cultural provision came today with the news that the much-loved and widely admired Warehouse Theatre is facing financial administration.
The theatre on Dingwall Road by East Croydon station had £30,000-worth of funding from Croydon Council cut in recent weeks. The loss of this money forced a board meeting last Friday to call in the administrators.
According to sources at the theatre this evening, Croydon’s chief executive Jon Rouse has openly expressed his surprise that the venue has managed to continue operating for the past five years.
As a new theatre is part of the plans for the redevelopment of Ruskin Square, closure of the Warehouse would cast doubt over the £3 million earmarked by developers Stanhope for the arts venue. Some Town Hall insiders wonder whether the Stanhope millions would automatically default to Croydon Council.
Since it opened in 1977 as a lunchtime theatre, the Warehouse has become one of the best-known drama venues in south London, renowned for its mix of new writing and top-flight cabaret.
It is midway through a run of Call Mr Robeson, an acclaimed production about the life and activism of the American singer. Performances of the play will continue, though according to administrator Jeremy Frost, any proceeds are likely to go straight to the theatre’s creditors, rather than to the production company.
It is possible that the theatre could continue staging productions until the end of the year, while in administration, a status which is likely to be confirmed by the end of this week.
In the past, Cate Blanchett, Eddie Izzard, French and Saunders and Julian Clary have all trod the boards at the Warehouse.
The Warehouse Theatre also has a reputation for working with schools and new talent, with an annual festival for new plays and important collaborations with the Brit School.
For almost a decade, the theatre’s future has been linked with the development of the “Croydon Gateway” /Ruskin Square site, which the warehouse backs on to. Developers Stanhope have undertaken to provide a replacement theatre as part of its planned new build.
A Warehouse Theatre board meeting on Friday determined that without the grant from Croydon Council, they could no longer afford to continue productions.
There remains some hope that the theatre’s 2,500 devoted members may be able to raise enough cash to avoid the venue – a converted Victorian concrete warehouse – “going dark”, with the theatre’s management seeking new sources of funding. This will include going back to the Town Hall.
This news comes almost exactly a year after Croydon Council mothballed its own arts centre at the Clocktower, with the closure of its David Lean Cinema.
The Warehouse Theatre’s closure could leave Croydon with just the Fairfield Halls – which continues to receive millions in subsidies and grants from the Conservative-controlled council – as the sole, larger scale live performance venue in the borough’s centre.
- Inside Croydon: brought to you from the heart of the borough, free of charge, an independent voice standing for freedom of speech for the people of Croydon
- Ruskin Square build unlikely to start before 2013 (insidecroydon.com)
- Protesters to take Croydon’s burning issue to the streets (insidecroydon.com)
- “The 39 Steps” at The Warehouse Theatre (generallordisimo.com)