If chosen as the overall winner, the building - located in London's East End, near the Tower of London - will be restored to secure its unique performance space and provide exhibition, education and restaurant facilities. This will ensure the increased availability of world-class music and theatre in one of the most deprived boroughs of London. It will give the opportunity for a major expansion of use by all sectors of the borough's diverse community. Wilton's, now the home of Broomhill Opera company, is the only working theatre to have been included in the series.
Built by pub owner John Wilton in 1858 as an extension of his drinking house, Wilton's is the world's oldest surviving extant music hall. It was closed in the 1880s and later became a Methodist church and then a rag warehouse. Once condemned, it was saved by the intervention of Sir Laurence Olivier, Peter Sellers and Sir John Betjeman.
The building re-opened for performances in 1999 after temporary repair. The opening production was The Silver Lake, directed by Gordon Anderson and translated by comedian and impressionist Rory Bremner, who has been advocating its cause on Restoration. Subsequent performances have included the premiere of Simon Callow's The Mystery of Charles Dickens and Elijah Moshinsky's The Turn of the Screw.
In 2001, Wilton's artistic directors Mark Dornford May and Charles Hazlewood produced the highly acclaimed sell-out production of The Mysteries which went on to tour the world after a sell-out run in the West End. The same company of South African performers followed The Mysteries with a new production of The Beggars Opera.
For further information on the Restoration competition, visit the BBC website. To vote for Wilton's Music Hall, call 0901 077 5010. Lines are open until 10.10pm on Sunday 14 September.
- by Terri Paddock