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Bosses are holding out hope for doomed Epstein Theatre

11 months ago

Bosses are holding out hope for doomed Epstein Theatre
Epstein Theatre

With less than three weeks until the city’s historic Epstein Theatre is set to close, bosses looking after it say they refuse to give up hope.

Jane Joseph, company director of Epstein Productions which was given the contract to operate the theatre in 2018, said today: “I go to bed thinking about the Epstein and I wake up thinking about the Epstein.

“And I would appeal to anyone out there looking at this, a big investor, Sir Paul McCartney, someone who could help us to save this amazing theatre, to please help us to do that.

“We have shown we can make this theatre work, we have got successful shows that sell out.  We just need support.”

And Jane, who at the helm of regal Entertainments has transformed the Theatre Royal in St Helens, added: “A knight in shining armour is what we need, and we are praying that that someone is out there.

“They wouldn’t just be saving the Epstein, beautiful and worth it alone that it is; they would be saving a piece of Liverpool history, they would be saving a theatre space that gives opportunity to lots of up-and-coming talent, and they would be saving a theatre space that offers affordable theatre entertainment to families across this city.

“It is worth saving!”

It was announced just days ago that the Epstein Theatre in Hanover House in Hanover Street is set to close on June 30 after financial pressures on the council’s budget meant it could no longer offer support. 

Liverpool City Council owns the freehold of Hanover House and they lease the building to a commercial property landlord, and then sub-lease the Epstein back from them.

Epstein Entertainments Ltd. was awarded the contract to operate the theatre on behalf of the council in October 2018, and in the management agreement the council covered a proportion of the rent, service charge, utilities, and maintenance fees.

Although the council has supported and subsidised the theatre since the 1960s, Epstein Entertainments says requests for it to support the theatre with £50,000 per year for the next five years and save it have been refused.

Since the news broke, social media has flooded with comments from supporters who say the theatre cannot be allowed to close.

Jane said: “I have not seen one comment that has been negative.

“We have been inundated with people pledging overwhelming support and calling for the Epstein to be saved.

“It is jewel in the crown of this city. It is a piece of history in the centre of Liverpool.  When you walk in it takes your breath away, the ambience, the feel, and the smell of the place is just incredible, and I can’t believe we are in this situation.”

Because of Covid Epstein Entertainments – Jane, daughter Chantelle Nolan who’s artistic and operations director, and Bill Elms as artistic and communications director – were not able to occupy the theatre until October 2021, but since then they have continued to run a poplar programme of events which fill the seats.

“We have ploughed our own money into repairs to keep this theatre going, we put a sound system in and we put a lighting system in to make the theatre operational. We have ploughed our energy into it,” says Jane. “It’s heart-breaking.

“It does need a lot of money spending on it, it costs a lot to run a theatre like this, but it’s not a lot in terms of keeping that theatre open for the people of Liverpool. Where else can a dance school go in the city of Liverpool and stage their end of year show?

“It’s an affordable space for amateurs, for presentations, for new pieces to get legs; it’s there for well-known musicians like Steve Harley and comedians Jasper Carrot who played to full houses recently; and it’s there for panto – our last Christmas panto was nominated for four awards from 100s of theatres, many bigger, across the country!

“We were about to launch a youth workshop to give young people in the city a taste of theatre, from acting to lighting, from make-up to sound.

“And it’s being taken away. 

“It is so frustrating. We came back after Covid and made it a success…and now this.”

Jane appealed: “This theatre will be left standing and we can’t allow that to happen. So until June 30, I am not losing hope, I am praying for a miracle, and I am appealing for a big investor, for anyone who can help us, to offer us the support we need.  And we won’t let them, or the people of Liverpool, down.”

Liverpool City Council said it wasn’t issuing any statements other than the one it released last week, saying: “It was decided in 2021 that the cost of more than £100,000 a year in financial support for the Epstein Theatre was unsustainable and, after careful consideration, both the landlord and theatre operator were informed that the council would be unable to continue this beyond 2023.

“That was not an easy decision. The council is a huge supporter of the city’s cultural sector and continues to annually invest millions of pounds supporting dozens of venues and organisations, but that support needs to deliver value for money for the tax payer.

“The Council paid for the Epstein Theatre’s restoration and has supported it on an annual basis since 2011. It was hoped that given both the operator and landlord had had more than 18 months to negotiate a new lease arrangement, an amicable solution would be found, between the two parties. It is a huge shame that has not materialised.”

For more news on the Epstein Theatre click here.

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