A new company has been set up to operate one of the region’s best-loved venues, the Tyne Theatre & Opera House in Newcastle.
Tyne Theatre & Opera House Ltd takes over from SMG whose 10-year association with the Grade I-listed Newcastle theatre on Westgate Road ended on January 5.
The new company has been set up by the Tyne Theatre & Opera House Preservation Trust, the charity set up in 2004 to look after the historic building and which now owns it.
SMG, which still operates the Metro Radio Arena and Playhouse Whitley Bay, decided not to extend its Tyne Theatre management deal but agreed to stay on for a few months to ensure a smooth transition.
Four staff members, including theatre director Joanne Johnson, transferred from SMG to the new company to continue their association with the venue.
Frank Lloyd, chairman of the Tyne Theatre & Opera House Preservation Trust and a director of the new company, said: “We ran a twin track approach once we knew SMG were definitely going to move out.
“We advertised nationally to see if we could get other theatre operators interested in working with us and we had some interest but nothing was finalised.
“But at the same time we were working towards operating the theatre with a new company.
“The staff became our employees last week and they are very enthusiastic and really up for it. They’re going to work like mad to make the theatre a success.”
Mr Lloyd said the new arrangement was exciting because it would enable the Preservation Trust to submit a “robust” bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund for money to secure the theatre’s future.
Two previous bids failed because they were not deemed to be focused enough on education and community work.
Mr Lloyd said that with SMG as tenants there was “virtually no engagement with the Preservation Trust’s aims and obligations”.
He added: “HLF won’t give you money just to improve the fabric of a building. What they’re looking for is sustainable plans.”
Asked if he was optimistic about the future of the theatre, which opened in 1867, he replied: “Absolutely. All the trustees of the Preservation Trust – including myself and Keith (Proudfoot, the treasurer) as directors of the new company – are volunteers who give our time freely.
“We are excited and it has been heartening to see that the new staff are excited. They didn’t have to come across.”
Mr Lloyd said Newcastle City Council and other city theatre bosses, especially Philip Bernays, chief executive of the Theatre Royal, had been helpful and supportive.
He said new directors with a successful business record were being sought for the new company.
A new theatre website – www.tynetheatreandoperahouse.uk – details the shows currently on sale.