Saved! Key Theatre to be run by operators of Peterborough New Theatre

Two days after its closure, a deal has been struck to keep Peterborough Key Theatre open.

By Brad Barnes
Wednesday, 19th January 2022, 4:15 pm
Key Theatre, Peterborough EMN-220118-142337009
Key Theatre, Peterborough EMN-220118-142337009

Selladoor, the company which operates the city centre New Theatre on Broadway, has signed a five -year lease to take the ailing Embankment venue off the city council’s hands and has already spoken of an ambitious agenda for Peterborough.

The Key closed on Monday as part of measures announced last month by the council to help balance the books. The theatre was predicted to lose £300,000 this year.

Today, the council - which had previously said it was in talks to try and keep the venue open at no cost to itself - revealed that Selladoor had agreed to step in to keep the venue open.

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A statement said: “The decision will still be subject to call-in (and be scrutinised by councillors). These procedures have been invoked as the Council has worked hard to identify a temporary operator for the Key Theatre, and Selladoor (the current operator of the New Theatre) are the only party immediately willing and able to fulfil this role.

“They are in a position, subject to successful lease negotiations, to take over from 1 February, meaning that all existing City Culture staff employed at the Key Theatre would subject to statutory consultation transfer under TUPE legislation resulting in no immediate redundancies, and pre-booked shows would be able to continue uninterrupted.”

The Lease to Selladoor Venue Development Ltd will run for a period of five years, with annual break clauses.

The council statement says the this enables the continuation of the Key Theatre, supports the staff currently employed to work at the Key Theatre and allows theatregoers to continue to access the Key Theatre.

It also removes some of the ongoing financial burden of the year-on-year losses incurred by the theatre.

Alternative options considered were to continue to operate the Key Theatre – this option is rejected however due to the in-year and forecast future years’ operating losses; or to close the Key Theatre - this option is rejected as an alternative option at no additional cost to the council has emerged.

The Chalkboard restaurant and the Key Youth Theatre will both remain on site for at least the next 12 months.

Councillor Steve Allen, council cabinet member for housing, culture and communities, said: “I am delighted we have been able to secure the future of the Key Theatre so quickly after working around the clock with a number of interested parties for some time now and the good folks at the New Theatre will I’m sure prove to be an excellent choice to take the venue forward. They have a superb reputation and host several high-quality productions of their own both locally and internationally through their parent company Selladoor, so it will be exciting to see their plans for the Key going forward which will have a positive impact on the city’s cultural offering.

“There was understandably a lot of frustration when we announced we could no longer fund the theatre going forward, but unfortunately that is the reality of our current financial situation. However, we have always maintained that we would do everything possible to keep the venue open, and this agreement demonstrates how we can maintain services without spending taxpayers’ money! We have made good on that commitment today with this announcement on the future of the Key Theatre.”

David Hutchinson, CEO of New Theatre Peterborough’s parent company Selladoor Worldwide, said; “We are relatively new in Peterborough, having taken over the New Theatre in 2019. However, in that short space of time the cultural capital and potential within this city is unmistakable.

“Culture and community thrives only through collaboration and connectivity – and to lose the Key Theatre, a building with such rich and important history and participants – would be an absolute disaster for every cultural organisation in the city.

“Our commitment is to merge two theatres, under one efficient yet ambitious organisation, with two very different personalities – under a joint agenda for change, inclusion, talent development, quality work and sustainability. We want to build on the important relationships at the Key, not take away from them.

“We want to bring more artists to the city of Peterborough – but equally champion more local talent – and have them triumphantly dazzle stages across the country. We want to learn from the people and organisations that engage (and don’t engage yet) with culture in Peterborough.

“We’ve got an ambitious agenda – but we need time to build it and ask for the support of the public and our partners in realising this newly merged, ambitious agenda for ‘Peterborough Theatres’.”