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VICTORIA Theatre Salford

Group dedicated to the acquisition and restoration of the Victoria Theatre, Great Clewes Street, Salford
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Viability Study

This is a summary of a report that has examined whether there is a viable option for restoring the historic Victoria Theatre in Salford.

It has been commissioned by the Salford Victoria Theatre Trust (SVTT) with funding from the Theatres Trust's Theatres At Risk Capacity Building programme, the East Salford Communtiy Committee and Standing Together Fund.

The theatre is of national significance and is one of few remaining buildings designed by the renowned theatre architect Bertie Crewe. It opened, with a fanfare, in 1900 and has a beautiful and unusual interior. It retains Victorian stage equipment, elements of which are unique. The terracotta façade is fine and, with restoration, would be a major adornment to the area.

The building is in poor and deteriorating condition, largely because of holes in the roof and it is on the Theatre Trust’s register of theatres at risk, but does not require major change to become useable again. It is Grade II listed, but probably warrants Grade II* listing. It was purchased by a local businessman in September 2018 who, with his partners, has so far taken no action to stop the damage.

front elevationPic: Bertie Crewe’s Original Main Elevation Drawing

Salford is a place of rapid change. Much regeneration activity has taken place in the vicinity of the theatre. Development is fast spreading from central Manchester towards the Irwell, where it is located. A large proportion of the residents within walking distance are now young people, either students or people in the early stages of their careers. People of that nature like leisure opportunities close to where they live and work. There are currently no such leisure opportunities in the Lower Broughton area. The impending redevelopment of Mocha Parade, opposite the theatre, to contain a supermarket and health centre will improve the ambience and bring more people to the location. There is potential, in the longer term, for large scale development around the theatre.

The full report outlines a four-stage strategy for restoration:

  1. Repairing the roof, clearing the building and making it safe, externally and internally, and unblocking windows.
  2. Restoring the basement, ground and first floors of the front of house section; the stalls; the ground floor of the stage; the dress circle lobby, front dress circle seating and the dress circle bar.
  3. Restoring the upper and lower levels of the stage house.
  4. Restoring the upper levels of the front of house and auditorium.

Proposed plans

The short-medium term plan would be to achieve stages 1 and 2 of the restoration strategy. The upper floors would be mothballed until the building is operating successfully and further funds can be secured. The interior of the auditorium would be treated as “arrested decay”, a formula successfully used, for example, at Alexandra Palace in London, Mackie Mayor food hall in Manchester and, further afield, “ruin pubs” in Budapest. This means that decorative features would not be restored in the medium term, with elements of decay used to create an ambience of “shabby chic”. Careful modern interventions and feature lighting would be used to create ambience. There are options for how the building could be used in this form. It could, for example, be a destination brew pub plus entertainment venue. It is envisaged, however, that it would be operated as a flexible events centre and community hub.

AerialCorner view

They envisage three elements of the business:

  1. Front of House/Dressing Room Block - the beautiful units and entrance from the street would accomodate a coffee shop, flexible workspace and hireable studio / meeting room spaces.
  2. Auditorium - available for hire for both “hall-oriented” events like wedding receptions, award ceremonies/dinners and markets, as well as “stage-oriented” events like live music, comedy, theatre and cinema.
  3. Stage - hireable as a studio theatre and rehearsal space.

It is not necessary to restore it fully, however, for a viable business to operate in it. While it may be desirable in the long term to fully restore the building to be an operational theatre again, this is unlikely to be deliverable or sustainable in the short-medium term. This is partly because of the cost, but also because, given the many other performing arts venues in Manchester, it would struggle financially, probably requiring subsidy, for which there is currently no obvious source. The building has the advantage, however, that the rake in the stalls is gentle and it has substantial front of house and back of house spaces. There are other options to create a viable business, therefore.

The main conclusions, in summary, are:

  • The building is outstanding and, with restoration, could form an attractive and vibrant hub for Lower Broughton.
  • It is unlikely that any other project could bring such large benefit to the area.
  • There is no excuse for the building to be allowed to continue to deteriorate given its importance and potential for viable use.

We welcome any comments or queries about this report, especially from individuals and organisations that believe they may have an interest in using the building and other wise assisting SVTT to ensure its survival. To get involved with bringing this beautiful building back to life, or to obatin a copy of the report, email

Theatre Trust logo   Consultant logos

The study was carried out by: business planners, Colliers International; with Foster Wilson Architects; IKS Cost Consultants; and, experts in historic theatres, Theatresearch.