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‘Theatre at Risk’: Swindon Mechanics’ Institute gets a helping hand from Theatres Trust

A grant of more than £23,000 has been awarded by the Theatres Trust to the Mechanics’ Institution Trust to fund a viability assessment to determine how the building can thrive in the future.

The Grade II* listed building has been on the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register since its inception in 2006. It was built as a social and community centre for staff of the Great Western Railway, providing them with facilities they would otherwise have had little access to. It is also on the Historic England at Heritage at Risk Register.

The Mechanics’ is one of six theatres to receive funding through the first round of the Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme, run by the national advisory body for theatres. The others are Burnley Empire, Morecambe Winter Gardens, Peterborough New Theatre, Salford Victoria Theatre and Spilsby Theatre.

The programme is designed to support theatres on the Trust’s Theatres at Risk Register to commission expert advice and acquire the skills and knowledge to push forward capital projects to help save their theatres.

Dr David Thackray, chair of the New Mechanics’ Institution Preservation Trust, says “We are delighted to receive this support from the Theatres Trust. The funding will help us identify a sustainable future for this important part of Swindon’s heritage.”

Musician, actor and Theatres Trust Trustee Gary Kemp says “We know how difficult it can be for theatres to raise funding for the early stage concept and viability works and for organisational support. These first stages of a project provide the vital foundations for both project and organisation, and we hope that with this support, these theatres will be able to make real progress.”

Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme is supported by Historic England, The Pilgrim Trust, Swire Charitable Trust and anonymous donors.

Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England says “It’s great news that two of the historic theatres on the Heritage at Risk Register – Grade II* listed Morecambe Winter Gardens in Lancashire and Grade II* listed Mechanics Institute in Swindon – are being given a vital helping hand by being awarded a grant from this important new scheme. We are delighted to support this programme and to be able to provide our technical advice and expertise to help save important theatres.”

Georgina Nayler of the Pilgrim Trust says: “The Pilgrim Trust recognises the importance of supporting theatres at risk to save their buildings and give them a viable and sustainable future.  This is not just because so many of the buildings are of outstanding significance, but also because a restored, vibrant and well visited theatre building can assist with the regeneration of the centres of our towns and cities.  We are delighted to be funding this programme”.

Martha Allfrey Trustee of the Swire Charitable Trust says “The Swire Charitable Trust is delighted to be supporting the Theatres Trust’s Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme. We applaud its goal of removing vulnerable theatres from the Theatres at Risk Register, thus securing the future of these vital cultural, community and heritage assets. Theatres Trust’s unique and intense work with these theatres can lend support in so many ways, offering exciting opportunities to the community and campaign groups involved – we will follow the progress of each project with great interest.”

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