Bookings for 2018 being taken at Sheffield's Library Theatre despite hotel redevelopment proposal

Bookings are being taken for productions next year at Sheffield's Library Theatre, the council has confirmed, easing worries the building's proposed redevelopment had cast doubt on shows in 2018.

Wednesday, 13th September 2017, 4:52 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:12 am
The Library Theatre in Sheffield

Roger Bingham, president of the Tudor Players, said the society had pencilled in dates with the council for plays next February, May and October, but was struggling to get full confirmation that the shows could go ahead.

However, the council has now committed to accepting bookings with local groups for the 12 months from January.

Roger Bingham in the Lyceum Theatre

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Coun Mary Lea, cabinet member for culture, parks and leisure, said: “We know local theatre groups are looking at planning their productions for 2018. The Library Theatre is taking bookings for next year and our team should be able to confirm dates directly with the groups who are interested very soon.”

Talks are continuing about the idea of turning the Central Library and Graves Gallery building, where the theatre is housed in the basement, into a five-star hotel using Chinese investment money. Culture bosses want to hire consultants to spend three months identifying the options for another venue that could replace the 260-seat hall in Tudor Square.

Roger said the dates were provisionally booked earlier this year when it became clear that a 12-month exclusivity period granted to developer Sichuan Guodong Group, to explore the hotel's feasibility, had not yet 'kicked in'.

"Normally for our last show of the year we would have a tri-fold leaflet printed with all our dates in, but time is running out. We just want to know whether our pencil dates are firm dates."

Roger Bingham in the Lyceum Theatre

Roger, an actor who has appeared in TV dramas and was instrumental in the campaign to save the Lyceum Theatre in 1969, added: "In fairness, we have been one of their best customers for 50-plus years and it doesn't seem too much to ask."

The Tudor Players' final production of 2017, a stage version of Goodnight Mister Tom, is happening next month.

Consultants will be asked to prepare a report highlighting the 'unique features and amenities which the Library Theatre adds to the city', as well as the venue's current users - including 'those the current facilities do not meet'.

Other schemes being considered by the universities and organisations such as Sheffield Theatres, S1 Artspace, Classical Sheffield and Theatre Delicatessen will also be factored in to any recommendations. Thought will be given to finding room for performances in a re-used building, or a completely new library.

The Library Theatre is generally used by non-professional acting groups, but has hosted many other activities including film screenings, dance, pop concerts and literature events.

A petition launched by the Sheffield and District Amateur Theatre Association earlier this year, calling for the venue to be retained, gathered nearly 650 signatures.

In March it emerged that Sheffield Town Hall was being considered as a new location for a city centre library. If the hotel concept is not taken forward, the library would not move, as the council has ruled out leaving the building empty, despite it needing millions of pounds worth of repairs. The Graves Gallery is expected to stay on the existing premises.