Planning Committee Decides Fate of City's MermaidDate: 17 March 2003
The fight to save London's Mermaid Theatre may reach its final, unhappy conclusion tomorrow, 18 March 2003, when the Corporation of London's planning committee convenes to decide the venue's fate.
The owners of the site, Blackfriars (PD) Ltd, want permission to demolish the Mermaid in order to build a modern office block, with conference venue, in its place. As compensation, the company has offered to pay a "planning gain" of £6 million to be used to promote alternative theatres in the City of London in exchange for demolishing the Mermaid.
According to Maggie Sutton of the Save the Mermaid Theatre Campaign (SMTC), which has been battling to rescue the venue since 1996, it would cost in excess of £20 million to construct a modern equivalent of the Mermaid, a single-tier, open-stage auditorium which was built in 1959 and was the first new theatre in the City since Shakespeare's Day.
"The Mermaid has been cynically and deliberately run down in recent years, but with good management it could once again be the jewel in the crown of the City's theatres," says Sutton. "It is ironic that, with Ken Livingstone trying to encourage tourists to visit the City and a whole stretch of the river being regenerated with Shakespeare's Globe, the Tate Modern and the linking Millennium Bridge, the City should be contemplating the destruction of the Mermaid."
Sutton has been urging theatregoers to write letters of protest to the Corporation of London and to the Theatres Trust, which, according to SMTC, is planning to accept Blackfriars' £6 million offer of "blood money". Doing so, says Sutton, is a dangerous precedent that "will threaten this country's cultural heritage".
"What security can there be for our theatres in the UK if the one statutory organisation we have to protect them is prepared to abandon them in this way?" she questions.
For further information, call Save London's Theatres on 020 7670 0270.
- by Terri Paddock