Will Westminster Theatre Rise from Ashes???

There have been several attempts to save and resurrect the Westminster Theatre. And another one is gaining momentum. According to The Stage newspaper, a planning application has been submitted to the City of Westminster Council for a new “Menier Chocolate Factory-style” development on the site, including two performance spaces.

The theatre is part of a new property development from Yolanda Ltd, which is being designed by architect Tim Foster, and would also include a new restaurant and upstairs flats. The theatre would be run by the London Aloft company, whose team includes chief executive Stephen Mitchelson and patron Steven Berkoff. Gregory Thompson has reportedly been signed up as artistic director.

How viable the new Westminster Theatre plans are should become clearer next Thursday (14 May), when Westminster Council meets to review the planning application.

Originally the St James’ Picture House, the original Westminster Theatre building was opened in 1923 on the site of an old chapel. In 1931, it was transformed into a theatre, with a capacity for more than 1,500. Despite the efforts of Save London Theatres Campaign, Westminster Council granted permission for developers to demolish it in 2001 and the theatre closed in 2002, after which a fire razed most of the structure (See News, 17 Dec 2001).

A subsequent high-profile plan, Talawa’s £9.3 million Westminster Theatre Project to establish the first major black-led arts institution in central London, also failed after Arts Council funding was withdrawn (See News, 14 Jul 2005).