Why Derby’s famous Guildhall Theatre needs to be reopened as soon as possible

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Derby’s Guildhall Theatre has been closed since 2019 - and with no clear date to reopen it, we look at why the iconic venue needs to reopen its doors as soon as possible

The Guildhall Theatre has crowned the centre of Derby for over 190 years after it was built in the 1820s, but its legacy has been halted for over four years now - and that is something that needs to be fixed quickly.

The theatre’s iconic ceiling partially collapsed in January 2019 and since then there has been no indication of when the building will next open its doors.

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Despite having spent £1.5million on repairs, more still needs to be done.

A spokesperson for Derby City Council said: “The Guildhall is a valuable asset in a key location in the cultural heart of the city.

“While some essential repairs have taken place, the building still requires significant work to meet safety standards and customer expectations. The council continues to work on plans and potential costs to bring the building back into use in the future.”

The theatre was home to a number of smaller drama groups due to its relatively small capacity compared to the bigger venues in Derby, notably the Velodrome and Derby Theatre, which is located inside the Derbion shopping centre.

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This is why the closure poses such a threat - because it has limited the opportunity for these smaller drama groups to thrive in Derby and it could damage the local performing arts scene, which would be highly disappointing.

It was only a few weeks ago that Derby Quad announced that it needed financial support to remain open - it is becoming clearer and clearer that there is less priority for the performing arts, which many people rely on for entertainment and escapism from their daily lives. But if they keep getting stripped back more and more, then what will that leave us with?

Following the closure of the Assembly Rooms after a fire in 2014, Derby’s theatre industry at least still had the Guildhall.

The yearly pantomime moved to the Velodrome which is a great venue - however, for obvious reasons it can’t host a large number of productions so it was no permanent replacement for the Assembly Rooms.

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The Guildhall was that place, purpose-built for regular productions - it was the home to Derby’s drama scene, yet now these productions have been left homeless.

Furthermore, without the venues, opportunities for new drama groups and new performers to emerge is limited - couple that with the 50 per cent funding cuts that the Government made to arts in higher education back in 2021 and the damage is clear to see.

It really feels like the arts are fading away more than ever.

Not to mention the impact on local businesses. Regular shows would bring people into the city centre, spending money in shops, bars and restaurants. Anything that can boost Derby’s economy has to be a priority.

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We don’t want our local shops and hospitality venues to die out. High streets all over the country are struggling to attract customers with the rise of online shopping and out of town outlets. If the Guildhall was to reopen, it would provide Derby’s businesses with a potential customer base - this could keep returning if productions are frequent.

On first glance, the Guildhall wouldn’t seem to be as important to the city as it actually is - this is why it needs to reopen as soon as possible.

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