The campaign to save Salford’s Grade II listed historical Victoria theatre re-emerged recently, giving new hope for its possible future reuse.
The Victoria theatre in Lower Broughton has stood derelict since its closure in 2007 but a derelict explorer recently entered the building and released photographs of its current state – stirring new interest in the campaign.
The campaign group have been working over the past five years to get the attention of local Councillors, MPs, and investors. Salford City Council have now pledged their support for the campaign in the hope of securing its positive reuse.
Allen Christey, Company Secretary of the Salford Victoria Theatre Trust said, “Support from the council has been very good. Paul Dennett, the Mayor of Salford and local MP Graham Stringer have together commissioned a report on three buildings at risk in the area, one being the Salford Victoria Theatre so we are awaiting the outcome of that.”
But derelict explorer, Matthew Holmes voiced his concern of the current state of the building, “There’s quite a lot of dry rot in there, the wooden floor boards are extremely damp and wet, and the roof tiling is quite bad so it’s letting a lot of weather in.
“Give it another five to eight years and this building will be falling down.
“If we act now we can save it, if we act in five or six years’ time they’ll eventually deem it too unsafe to save and it will just be knocked down and lost.”
The former theatre, first opened in 1901, was used as a cinema from 1920 before transitioning into a bingo hall in the 1950s, and hosting occasional performances until 1972. Christey himself has close personal ties with the building, having performed on stage, worked, and visited the building in his youth.
“I’m so passionate about the place because I appeared there. I was instrumental in getting it listed in 1982 and I kept an eye on it ever since.
“When I was sixteen I could have taken various paths in life, some of which would not have been very suitable. I had the wonderful experience of being taken into a theatre group and appearing on stage at the Victoria and that changed my life. That is an opportunity which shaped who I am and I would like that opportunity to be given to every youngster in town.”
The Save the Victoria Theatre campaign was launched in 2012 but was short-lived. The recent surge in support and attention has given new hope to the campaigners.
Allen said, “I’d like to see the building become a community hub. Every public performance space within the borough has been shut. They’re all now defunct, after suffering cuts. So there’s nowhere for theatre groups – or any activity – to go, except the Lowry, which is lovely and beautiful, but so expensive.