Wolverhampton’s Central Youth Theatre, which had previously warned it was at risk of closure without a permanent base, is celebrating getting a new home after striking a deal with the city council.
City of Wolverhampton Council has agreed to handover an empty three-storey city centre property to the group via a community asset transfer on a rent-free long-term lease.
The 37-year-old youth theatre, a registered charity which has helped thousands of young people to hone their acting skills, will take on responsibility for the maintenance and running costs of Burdett House in Cleveland Street.
The building is currently empty and boarded up and had been earmarked for demolition by the council.
The youth theatre presented the council with a full business case to transform the building into a base for its theatre activities and its ‘actor’s wardrobe’ costume hire operation.
Council leader, Cllr Ian Brookfield, had previously vowed to do everything possible to help the youth theatre after learning that it might be forced to close without a permanent home.
“The youth theatre came to us and said they were really struggling – operating out of two temporary bases miles away from each other and that they would be forced to close without a new home.
“I know what an amazing charity this is and how it has transformed the lives of thousands of young people who have come through its doors to tread the boards over the years. There was no way I was going to let it close on my watch.
“So we have worked with the theatre to find a solution, we have agreed to transfer one of our buildings to them. It is a win-win situation – they get their new base and will bring a boarded-up eyesore back into use and taxpayers will no longer be responsible for the upkeep and maintenance costs. Demolishing the building would also have been an expensive option.”
Jane Ward MBE, founding director of Central Youth Theatre, said:
“The youth theatre is very grateful to the leader of City of Wolverhampton Council, Cllr Ian Brookfield, for his ongoing concern and support for our group.
“Burdett House potentially represents a very exciting opportunity for us to create something truly unique and special for young people to grow their skills and interests in all aspects of the performing arts.
“We have a historic track record in helping our thousands of former members to develop careers in so many different areas of the business and know we will continue to have their full backing for this project – especially as they were the people who created a starter fund to help us to realise our long held ambition of developing our own premises.
“Notwithstanding this, we are presented with this opportunity at an incredibly challenging time and as an organisation we will be working incredibly hard over the coming months to navigate our way through the many forthcoming challenges.”