Restoration plans for historic Selsey theatre boosted by significant government funding

Restoration plans for an historic theatre and cinema in Selsey have been boosted by a government grant.

Friday, 9th July 2021, 12:50 pm
Updated Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 3:09 pm
Trustees Christian Skelton, Gillian Plowman, Phil Bassett, Pamela Howard OBE, Keith Batchelor and Rosie Neal SUS-210713-135609001

The Selsey Pavilion Trust, a charity working to acquire and restore Selsey Pavilion, has received significant backing from the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF).

The pavilion, originally Selsey Hall, is based in the High Street and was built in 1913. It was a rare and 'uniquely original' early 20th Century music hall, cinema, theatre and community hub but fell into disrepair since closing its doors in the 1960s.

A grant, totalling £15,000, will support developing a robust community-led feasibility study, business plan and fundraising strategy.

This has been described as an 'important stage', if the trust’s aspirations of returning the pavilion to community use 'are to be realised'.

Trustee and Selsey resident Christian Skelton said it is a 'very exciting step', adding: "This is the beginning of a long journey.

"We have spent a long time looking at ways we can get this project off the ground. There are so many hurdles.

"It's about returning these old buildings that have fallen into disrepair back into vibrant community use. The pavilion fits the bill perfectly."

Mr Skelton said Selsey High Street is 'positioned perfectly' and offers a 'chance for us to do something long-term for the community'.

"The grand idea is to re-purpose it as a multi-use space," he said. "It could be used for children and family activities in the day time. We would like to install retractable seating systems so, in the evening, we can have live music, cinema and theatre.

"It's very early days but this government-backed fund shows it has potential to do great things for the community. It's the confident and backing we needed to go forward."

The AHF exists to help communities find 'enterprising ways' to revitalise the 'old buildings they love'.

Through its 'Transforming Places through Heritage' grant programme, the AHF supports projects with the potential to transform high streets and town centres in England.

“I cannot stress how important having the AHF onboard is for our community and this project," Mr Skelton added.

"Whilst this is the start of a long and challenging journey, this grant enables us to take the first step to get going and help set the vision for this great community venture.

"We truly believe the Selsey Pavilion can be the jewel in the crown of Selsey – just as it was 100 years ago: a vibrant mixed-use community hub for all: heritage, the arts, children and family activities, the lot."

Mr Skelton said the project will boost the economy in Selsey as, currently, 'there's not a huge amount to do in the evenings'.

He said: "This is something that can draw people to the high street and keep them here for longer.

"Live concerts and music has so many benefits.

"Selsey has got its far share of problems and this is a chance to do something positive for everybody to get behind and be proud of.

"So many people in Selsey have no idea the pavilion was a cinema.

"It's more than 100 years old so, if we don't start now, it probably won't be here in 10/15 years time."

The next stage of the project will be to formally appoint architects, cost consultants and business planners, details of which will be 'released soon'. The Selsey Pavilion Trust intends to complete this feasibility study 'by the end of the year'.

Laura Williams, AHF programme officer, said: “The Architectural Heritage Fund’s ‘Transforming Places through Heritage’ programme aims to bring new life to our high streets by finding creative uses for empty or underused old buildings.

"We are delighted to support the Selsey Pavilion Trust in their efforts to restore and re-open this landmark building in the town.”