Beverley Picture Playhouse, Planning Feasibilty Review, Alun Bond – Artservice
1.1 Purpose of Review
This review was commissioned by East Riding of Yorkshire Council to assess the role of the Playhouse and its potential for future operation in the context of other arts and entertainment facilities in Beverley. The review followed a period of public debate about the future of the Playhouse following the Council’s declaration that the building was surplus to the Council’s requirements and was to be placed on the market and made available for alternative uses.
A key aim of the review was to consider the viability of future Playhouse operation as an arts and entertainment venue and to advise on the town’s arts facility needs taking into account the role of existing facilities at Longcroft School and proposed developments to improve provision in the town, including plans to re-develop the Memorial Hall and to create a new Music Service base on land at Longcroft School.
Beverley Picture Playhouse is located in the main ‘Saturday Market’ square in Beverley in a building converted form the former Corn Exchange, built in 1886. The Playhouse has operated as a cinema since 1911 and, as such, was until its recent closure one of the longest surviving cinemas in England. The building freehold is owned by East Riding of Yorkshire Council.
The site consists of two premises (total area approximately 535 square metres), the main former Corn Exchange building and, adjoining to the rear, the town’s former swimming baths, currently leased for commercial purposes as a second hand retailing outlet. The Picture Playhouse is Grade II listed and occupies a site facing the market square of approximately 328 square metres.
The auditorium seats up to 300 and consists of a flat central floor with raked rear area with tiered side aisles. The interior contains chandeliers and wall panels which are part of the listing, but is generally in a poor state of repair. The stage area is small and was extended by additional flexible staging belonging to the folk festival which has now been removed. There is a 1950s 35 mm projector used for showing film.
The building has very limited ancillary facilities with little space for bar and catering services, cramped backstage areas and little foyer space. Its toilets and backstage areas are in desperate need of renovation and repair and most equipment is in need of replacement.
The Picture Playhouse has been operated for many years on a commercial basis providing a regular cinema programme and acting as a venue for live performances. It is used as a main venue by the Beverley Folk Festival and as an occasional venue by other festivals in the town. The last operating company ran the venue from 1998 until December 2002 when the venue closed and the company went into voluntary liquidation.