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Peterborough City Council has secured the future of the Key Theatre after agreeing terms with a new local operator.
Peterborough City Council has secured the future of the Key Theatre after agreeing terms with a new local operator.

Peterborough City Council has secured the future of the Key Theatre after agreeing terms with a new local operator.

Peterborough City Council

Peterborough City Council has secured the future of the Key Theatre after agreeing terms with a new local operator.

The council announced in December it was unable to fund the Key going forward through its partnership with City Culture Peterborough due to unprecedented losses coming to light. But talks have been taking place between the council and several groups interested in taking over the running of the Key, with the authority committed to doing all it could to secure the future of the venue.

And today, the council can announce that the operators of New Theatre in Peterborough are set to take over the running of the Key following the end of the consultation process with staff on 8 February. The agreement is subject to final deal negotiations.

In further good news, the Chalkboard restaurant and the Key Youth Theatre will both remain on site for at least the next 12 months. Any future alterations to the operations of both companies at the premises will need to be agreed beforehand by the council before they can be implemented.

New Theatre Peterborough has already established an excellent reputation in the city with its strong repertoire of shows and is in a position to take over the venue almost immediately. And thanks to this new agreement it is hoped disruption will be minimal, with ticketholders given a refund or having their ticket transferred to a later date if a show needs to be re-scheduled.

In the long term, this new arrangement is expected to deliver a better offering to the public and save taxpayers’ money, while the merging of two of Peterborough’s cultural assets will ensure a sustainable future for both venues.

Councillor Steve Allen, council cabinet member for housing, culture and communities, said: “I am delighted we have been able to secure the future of the Key Theatre so quickly after working around the clock with a number of interested parties for some time now and the good folks at the New Theatre will I’m sure prove to be an excellent choice to take the venue forward. They have a superb reputation and host several high-quality productions of their own both locally and internationally through their parent company Selladoor, so it will be exciting to see their plans for the Key going forward which will have a positive impact on the city’s cultural offering.

There was understandably a lot of frustration when we announced we could no longer fund the theatre going forward, but unfortunately that is the reality of our current financial situation. However, we have always maintained that we would do everything possible to keep the venue open, and this agreement demonstrates how we can maintain services without spending taxpayers’ money! We have made good on that commitment today with this announcement on the future of the Key Theatre.”

Under the new arrangements, all current staff – who are being consulted on the changes – will transfer over to New Theatre Peterborough. The existing programme of performances and shows will also continue unchanged up to the point that Selladoor take over.

Anyone that has bought tickets can be reassured that their money is safe and, should any postponements be needed, due to as yet unforeseen circumstances, all tickets will either be refunded or transferred to a later date if the show needs to be re-scheduled.

Under the terms of the arrangement, New Theatre Peterborough will not require any subsidy from the council and will be able to make the necessary savings to make the Key sustainable.

David Hutchinson, CEO of New Theatre Peterborough’s parent company Selladoor Worldwide, said; “We are relatively new in Peterborough, having taken over the New Theatre in 2019. However, in that short space of time the cultural capital and potential within this city is unmistakable.

Culture and community thrives only through collaboration and connectivity – and to lose the Key Theatre, a building with such rich and important history and participants – would be an absolute disaster for every cultural organisation in the city.

Our commitment is to merge two theatres, under one efficient yet ambitious organisation, with two very different personalities – under a joint agenda for change, inclusion, talent development, quality work and sustainability. We want to build on the important relationships at the Key, not take away from them.

We want to bring more artists to the city of Peterborough – but equally champion more local talent – and have them triumphantly dazzle stages across the country. We want to learn from the people and organisations that engage (and don’t engage yet) with culture in Peterborough.

We’ve got an ambitious agenda – but we need time to build it and ask for the support of the public and our partners in realising this newly merged, ambitious agenda for ‘Peterborough Theatres’.”