Thousands join call to save Southport Theatre after collapse

Thousands of people have joined a call to save the Southport Theatre and Convention Centre (STCC) after its operator blamed coronavirus for its collapse.

Back in May, bosses of Bliss Space (Southport) Ltd, which managed the theatre, said the impact of the pandemic was so severe that it had forced the theatre to fold.

For the past two years the centre had been operated by Bliss Space on a three-year "caretaker" basis as discussions about the long-term future of the site took place with Sefton Council.

However, company directors said the pandemic caused "devastating" trading conditions which left them with "no choice" but to put the company into liquidation, leaving the future of the theatre uncertain.

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Around 2,200 people have joined a campaign to save the theatre in just a couple of days.

The Facebook group, Save Southport Theatre (STCC), was set up on Saturday by Lisa Kelly, who said she was determined to “keep the STCC and make it great again."

Lisa said: “This group is for all those who support the reopening of Southport Theatre and our lovely Floral Hall. You may be aware that we shut our doors in March and the keys were handed back to Sefton Council who own the building.

“As yet there have been no decisions made public on the future of the building but we want to show Sefton Council and any prospective management companies that we the ex employees, businesses and the people of Southport want to keep STCC and make it great again

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“It’s a huge asset to Southport and its economy and to lose it would be a huge disadvantage to the area.

“Please feel free to give positive posts and feedback and share with us some of your great memories that we’ve all had through the years.”

Sefton Council also planned to inject £1.2million for a refurbishment of the theatre the building is in need of urgent repairs.

Lisa said the group also wanted to know if and when these repairs were to take place.

She said: “As you can see from the amount of members we’ve had in less than 48 hours, the people of Southport want STCC back up and running.

“First of all we want to know if or when the necessary repairs are going to take place to the building and who will be managing the venue.”

In March, Sefton Council appointed IPW to appraise long-term investment and redevelopment options for Southport Theatre and Convention Centre.

IPW, a specialist sport, venues, entertainment and business events consultancy, is currently working with Sefton Council to undertake feasibility studies into the future redevelopment of the STCC.

Hundreds of local people are behind the bid to bring the theatre back to life.

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Julia Spencer said: “My daughter did her first Junior Ballroom / Latin competition at The Floral Hall having previously competed as a Juvenile.

"It holds fond memories for a lot of people and is a lovely venue. Please keep this open.

“She went on to become three times World Salsa Champion with Chris Marques and is now a leading Choreographer in France having successfully choreographed for six years on Strictly UK before joining TF1 Paris.

“Places like the Floral Hall help others progress and further their careers in the world of arts.”

Jenny Barbé said: “My little boy has been so lucky to be the only boy picked for the last two Christmas pantos and also regularly competes at the Floral Hall in ballroom and Latin.

“Fingers crossed it can be saved.”

Local theatre and performing arts director Jacqui Lewis said: “Definitely needs to remain a theatre and convention centre.”

Sefton Council's 'Southport Town Deal Board' said "major" investment in the theatre was part of a recently drawn up bid to secure huge sums of funding to regenerate the town.

According to Sefton Council's website, an options paper will be prepared for the theatre and a decision is expected to be made by the relevant cabinet member on September 3.

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A spokesperson for Sefton Council said: “The operation of Southport Theatre and Convention Centre is still in the hands of the insolvency practitioner.

“However, STCC is central to the town’s offer and remains an important part of our plans for the town.

"We are continually reviewing plans for the reopening, and for the long-term future of this important venue and project.

“This has also been identified by the Southport Town Deal board as a key opportunity, and will form part of the conversation that the board will lead through the Town Deal Consultation process in the coming weeks.”

You can join the Save Southport Theatre (STCC) group on Facebook.