A petition has been launched as a town’s only theatre faces removal.
The Roundhouse Theatre is located at the Discovery Centre in the heart of Dover, which will soon be the subject of a £7million refurbishment project.
As part of the work, the Poltons Family Centre will move into the building – which houses Dover Library – and a walk-in local and family history archive will be installed.
Archaeology underneath the building, such as the external ruins of the St. Martin’s Le Grand Church and the Classis Britannica Fort, will also be made visible.
As a result of these changes it’s been deemed that the Roundhouse Theatre will have to be relocated, leaving Blackfish Academy without a home and Dover without a dedicated theatre.
Kent County Council owns the building and agreed to the refurbishment work at a July 13 meeting.
The Dover Mercury has seen a briefing paper sent to councillors before the decision was made, which reads: “The Blackfish Theatre had a lease agreement with KCC which ran out in 2013 and has been occupying the space under a more informal agreement since then.
“On our current timeframe, the theatre will need to be vacated by the end of February 2022 for work to begin in March 2022.
“The theatre can still be used between now and February 2022 (for panto season for example), however intrusive survey work will be required during that time. This can be scheduled around the activities of building users to minimise any disruption.”
The report also highlights discussions with Blackfish Academy chair Mike Scurfield, in which the plans for the building – including the theatre’s removal – were laid out to him.
The councillors’ briefing continues; “KCC has offered to assist the Blackfish Theatre group in finding alternative accommodation to rent in the locality.
“KCC unfortunately cannot financially support the theatre group but we have offered assistance with temporary storage if required whilst they vacate and find an alternative venue.
“Drama groups such as DODS (Dover Operatic and Dramatic Society) and Dover Youth Theatre will lose their performance venue…”
“We will be working closely with the Blackfish Theatre to fully understand what requirements they have of any space they use so that we can best assist them in finding a new venue that allows them to continue to serve the local community.”
Despite these assurances, the uncertainty over a future home for the theatre group has prompted it to set up a petition.
Titled ‘Save the Roundhouse Theatre, Dover’, the campaign’s description reads: “This disastrous plan would deprive the young people in Dover of singing, dancing and drama classes.
“For the last 15 years we have been delivering these and other life skills to the youth community in the town.
“The wider community will lose their entertainment venue, the only theatre in Dover.
“Drama groups such as DODS (Dover Operatic and Dramatic Society) and Dover Youth Theatre will lose their performance venue.”
At the time of writing, the Kent County Council-addressed petition has reached 660 signatures.
Click here to sign the petition or to keep up with its progress.
Read more: All the latest news from Dover