Theatre Museum Closes as ROH Partnership FailsDate: 25 September 2006
Covent Garden’s Theatre Museum - which has been under threat of closure since Heritage Lottery Fund turned down two grant applications from the Victoria and Albert Museum for redevelopment - is likely to close in January after plans to join forces with the Royal Opera House have fallen through (See News, 19 May 2006).
A press release issued this morning said the partnership would not go ahead due to the amount of investment the building would need and the lack of financial support from other organisations. The museum - which currently hosts an archive of valuable historic theatre memorabilia and, more recently, stage productions in its studio space after the Kings Cross-based Courtyard Theatre set up a temporary residency at the museum while its main site is redeveloped (See News, 21 Sep 2005) - will undertake touring displays, while some of the content will be housed in a new gallery at the V&A in South Kensington.
ROH chief executive Tony Hall said: “We spent a lot of time seeing whether we could devise an exciting plan for the museum, and secure the funding to make it work. All that effort and energy was worthwhile, but sadly the conclusion we have come to is that it is not going to work.”
He continued: “Though there has been a huge amount of moral support for the Theatre Museum, money for the most part has not been forthcoming. From the beginning, we had always seen this as being a joint venture between ourselves, the V&A and any number of others from the theatre world. We did not want it to be a Theatre Museum dominated by the Royal Opera House. Unfortunately, we have not been able to find those other collaborators. In addition, working with the V&A team over the past few months, it has been clear that the capital costs to freshen up the building and give it a new lease of life are much higher than originally thought. We do not regret the time and energy we have put into trying to make this partnership work. I think it is right that organisations come together to try and do things in the way we have attempted.”
V&A director Mark Jones commented: “Both the V&A and the Royal Opera House had high hopes that together and with partners we could establish a new centre in Covent Garden. Sadly, the support we need has not been forthcoming. I am grateful to Tony Hall and the ROH management and Trustees for giving us the opportunity to explore all the possibilities together and I am only sad that, in this instance, a partnership is not possible.
“The V&A recognises the disappointment this announcement will cause, particularly to those in the theatrical community who would like the Theatre Museum to remain in Covent Garden. However, we remain totally committed to safeguarding and displaying these collections which celebrate Britain’s unique theatrical heritage in costume and stage design.”
Trustees of the V&A added they would review the situation, but the museum is likely to close in the New Year.
- by Caroline Ansdell