‘Key Theatre closure would have damaged all Peterborough’s cultural institutions’

The man behind the rescue of Peterborough’s threatened Key Theatre and its “merger” with the city’s New Theatre has spoken of his desire to engage with the public and get them on board as they embrace the future.

By Brad Barnes
Friday, 15th April 2022, 5:00 am
The Key Theatre
The Key Theatre

After months of working diligently behind the scenes to make it happen, the deal with the city council to take on the Embankment venue was pretty much sealed two weeks ago with a £399,000 grant from the DCMS .

There were no post-lockdown plans to take on the running of another building (as well as New Theatre Selladoor has two more). However, the council’s shock announcement that it would close in January to save money changed that.

With a busy schedule already in place at the Key in coming months it is a time for consolidation, but Selladoor Venues CEO David Hutchinson has issued a rallying cry calling for people to show their support for the Key .

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“The Save The Key Theatre group was a testament to the fact that people love that building,” he says.

“As far as I was concerned when we heard it was going to be closed it was less about do we as an organisation want to expand into a new building, and more that there was absolutely no way that building could fail. If it did close, the New Theatre would be damaged, The Cresset would be damaged and all the other cultural institutions in Peterborough would be damaged.

“So it was a case of we have got to make it work and we as an organisation are probably best placed to do that in a way which is ultimately sustainable when you are running a 300-seater venue, which is a very difficult number of seats to make viable.

“We have got to now galvanise that love and support for the building to get some level of investment in terms of attendance and creating work there.”

Looking to the future, David said there would be an “ambitious” bid to the Arts Council to win NPO (National Portfolio Organisation) status for the two theatres and unlock further funding streams.

“We are consolidating two business in a way that is efficient and sustainable and then we want to add the next layer, the exciting bit, which is we want to do more .

“We want to invest in the community more, in the culture provision, in the buildings, and we want to invest more in creating and making art in Peterborough that will be nationally and internationally renowned. And that takes a bit of investment from the Arts Council .

“It is a real period of looking ahead, business planning, figuring out the huge asset that remains in the buildings - the people, the creatives, the teams but also the communities and groups that use both theatres and how we can further engage them in what we are doing.”

The two theatres will have different personalities - with the 1,100 capacity New Theatre continuing to attract big touring musicals and plays.

David added: “The Key is all about creating work that has a real community focus. We need to be telling more stories that originate in Peterborough with voices of people that are based or have a connection with the city.

“The Key offers a platform to entry into the arts and creative industries whether that is be on stage, off stage, costuming, lighting, sound, directing, producing.

“It allows us the opportunity to build people into the culture of making work, showcasing the voices of Peterborough and then eventually moving that work outside of Peterborough to showcase the city - which is is a city that has such significant cultural capital but has sometimes a poor image.”