‘The people of Liverpool deserve a say in what happens’ – find out more about the petition to save the Epstein Theatre
4 months ago
The manager of the Epstein theatre, which is facing closure at the end of this month, says Liverpool people should be given a say over its future.
“We are Liverpool’s civic theatre, we are the people’s theatre, historically and now,” says Anthony Proctor. “We believe that the people of Liverpool deserve a say in what happens to their cultural assets and that includes The Epstein.
“The city council has dictated what is going to happen this theatre and thankfully we live in a democracy where we can say ‘no we don’t agree with that’.”
He has started a petition via Change.org in the hope of showing just how valued the Epstein is by generations of theatregoers.
Anthony says everyone involved with the Epstein has been inundated with support since it was announced that the council planned to end its lease and withdraw its financial input into the venue, meaning it would close on June 30.
“The reaction has been overwhelming, and the ferocity of anger about this decision. And it’s not only about the potential loss of the theatre to artists and audiences but how much money’s been invested in just getting us to where we are.
“There has been so much waste in the cultural sector of Liverpool, this can’t be another wasteful project for Liverpool city council.
“The reality is no other venue anywhere in the country the size of ours, 380-seater, is a commercial venue, not that we know of, they’re all subsidized because of the capacity. We believe that the cultural value to the people of Liverpool makes the Epstein worthy of that support.”
Anthony says the theatre has always been a huge and important part of the city’s performing arts scene.
His own first experience of theatre was at the Neptune, the predecessor of the Epstein, back in the early 90s when he went to see his stepsister perform there.
“At the end of the production, an actor waved to the audience as the curtain went down and it felt like he was waving just to me in the stalls and that was it, that moment led me to a life in the theatre.
“It really is the theatre that drives and inspires me, so when the opportunity to run it came up last year, it was one I couldn’t pass up and it has been my absolute dream job.
“So many other people, like me, came to the theatre for the first time to see a show here. We’re a gateway both ways, for the artists and for the audience, and everybody has access to it – dance schools, performing arts schools, amateur dramatics societies.
“We programme shows that can’t find any other venue in Liverpool city centre to go to. That’s what’s so wonderful about Liverpool’s theatrical ecology, that we’re all doing something different, but if you take out the Epstein those shows just don’t come to Liverpool anymore.
“It’s heartbreaking to think those audiences just stop going to the theatre if we’re closed and the artists don’t get a place to perform. Comedians, for instance, start out in small clubs with 50 seats, get a following and move up to 100-150, then to a venue our size. When they can sell out one or two night here they’ll move to 1000 then to 2000+ then when they’re on TV they’ll go to arenas.
“It’s a chain and we are Liverpool’s link in that chain. If you take out a link then artists don’t move up and they don’t get seen. It works the same with music, it’s about growing audiences and we’re a part of that plan for artists.”
Not only is the theatre much-loved by performers and audiences, it’s also a beautiful building.
“It shows the craftsmanship of Liverpool,” adds Anthony. “Back in 1967, Liverpool city council made this theatre look like it does, it was their investment – the oak panelling, the waves on the dado rails, the green walls, the proscenium arch and the Romanesque columns. It was all about the name Neptune, they made it look so beautiful and it’s a unique building.
“It would be prized in London but it’s even special compared to the London theatres and it should be treasured.”
With the petition gathering pace, Anthony says they’ve not given up and are grateful for all the support.
“We want to say a massive thank you to everybody who has commented on social media, contacted council on our behalf, and sent messages of support. It’s been such a boost to everyone at the theatre and we hope everybody can get behind our petition and join our voices together to really tell the council what we think.”