Show could go on for under-threat theatre

Horncastle's Lion Theatre
Horncastle's Lion Theatre

Horncastle’s Lion Theatre Company could yet be offered the chance to buy their premises and stave off a threat of closure.

The theatre was last month given notice to quit their ‘home’ of the last 28 years at the Red Lion public house.

Owners of the pub - South Yorkshire based RBNB - plan to sell all 31 of their properties, apparently at an auction at the end of this month.

That has prompted fears the theatre could be made homeless.

However, the theatre building was recently designated as a ‘community asset’ by East Lindsey District Council.

Theatre manager and town councillor Brian Burbidge revealed the listing could allow the company to table a bid.

Coun Burbidge explained that under community asset regulations, RBNB must notify ELDC of the exact date they intend to put the theatre up for sale.

He added that would automatically evoke a six month moratorium, during which the theatre company would have a specific period of time - six weeks - to try and raise the funds to buy the theatre.

However, RBNB would appear to be in the driving seat because they would be under no obligation to offer the theatre to the company.

Even if a deal cannot be agreed, the moratorium would least provide the theatre with more time to reach a potential solution, including a move to a new premises or securing a deal with any new owners of the site.

Coun Burbidge said community asset status did offer hope, but he admitted the company did not have the funds to complete the purchase outright.

He said they were prepared to launch a campaign to raise the money.

Coun Burbidge, speaking at a Town Council meeting, revealed it had proved difficult to contact RBNB, despite solicitors representing the theatre company sending legal letters.

He confirmed the position was complicated because the theatre did not have an official lease and agreements had often been settled on a “gentleman’s handshake.”

He said accounts for the pub showed business picked up significantly during theatre productions.

Coun Burbidge stressed “every avenue” was being explored to keep the theatre going.

He said fears the owners would change the locks last week had not materialised but added: “It is difficult to say what might happen. In terms of saving the theatre, we are still at square one.”

ELDC confirmed they had written to all parties involved but refused to divulge details of any of the content.

Horncastle’s Mayor Coun Sandra Campbell-Wardman pledged the town council would offer any support it could to secure the theatre’s future.