Victoria Theatre, Salford
Visited in the freezing cold with Dave [Scrappy] in January 2019. A rather awkward manouvre to gain access to this derelict theatre was needed but after a while manipulating our bodies to fit a small gap we were had access.
Inside is pitch black which meant the dreaded light painting. It's something I'll avoid even if it means very long exposures but on this occasion it was the only option. The problem is it gives the images a garish look to them, hotspots in places and deep shadows in others. Post processing doesn't always fix it either but when needs must!
The condition inside wasn't too bad, i've seen worse for theatres and I'm reminded of the death trap that is Eccles Theatre here. I still have nightmares about climbing to the top of that one.
Some history & latest plans:
Designed by Bertie Crewe, the theatre was erected in 1899, and is Grade II listed. This architecturally-important theatre has a fine terracotta façade with much stained glass and a beautiful and intimate auditorium featuring richly scrolled plasterwork. There are substantial remains of wooden sub-stage machinery including a complete grave trap. The theatre is included within the top three of Salford’s own list of historic buildings deemed to be at risk.
The Victoria Theatre closed as a bingo hall in 2007 and has remained unoccupied ever since, slowly becoming more derelict as the years have passed.
The building was put up at auction in September 2018. While not sold on the day, the theatre was sold post auction to a local developer who has no current plans for the building.
Local campaign group, Salford Victoria Theatre Trust (SVTT), using funding awarded through the Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme has commisioned a viability study to determine the best use for the building. It is believed that the building has potential as a multi-purpose space that includes live performance.
In May 2019 the SVTT were successful in its application to the Theatres Trust Theatres at Risk Capacity Building Programme and was given funding towards a viability study. Work commenced in October 2019. The team undertaking the study have now visited the building during which time they discovered rare sub-stage machinery referred to as scruto. As explained by historical theatre experts:
"The stage was originally designed along the English Wood Stage principles whereby the sliders for the cuts and bridges slid off under the wings. However, because the wings were too narrow the sliders curved downwards in the manner of a roll-top desk. This was a technique used in the construction of a Corsican Trap, but it is now the only complete surviving example in the British Isles.”
The viability study has determined that the theatre has potential as a multi-purpose space that includes live performance. A phased approach to the works is likely. This would first reactivate the building frontage including shops and bar space with the auditorium in a viable meanwhile use as a multi-purpose space hosting events such as weddings, conferences, banquets, secret cinema, live music etc. This will allow the future of the building to be secured until funding can be found to fully restore the historic venue.