Shelley Manor Theatre seeks help to come back to life

From one modern building breaking down, one ancient theatre hopes to revive. Seats from Imax building, donated by Bournemouth Council to the 1840s Shelley Manor Theatre, have been cleaned and fixed by about a hundred people who went to help Charles Higgins Partership’s staff to set them into the old theatre, which is now hoped to become an art space for the community.

With no electricity  and heating, the theatre has been open to some representations over the past few years but now Charles Higgins Partnership, which manages the building, aims to put it back on its feet and reconstruct its ancient splendor. Patrick Keats, development director of the theatre said it was a, “semi-derelict, season-dependant building. Our mission now is to make it beacome a jewel here in Boscombe, a first-class community asset and intimate setting which will enable us to put on a wide range of productions”.

The main target is to enable the theatre to come back to life beginning this year, putting on professional shows, inviting artists to play and people to enjoy performances even in its current state. Mr Keats said: “I think it is very important for Boscombe to have this place back, because it’s a place loved by the local communty since it is part of its history and it represents Boscombe at its really best.”

After years of being dilapidated, the theatre will need much work to be reconstructed. A funding strategy should be completed by the end of April, but a costing plan has already been established. To get the place completely finished it will need about £2,000,000 for works like fitting toilets, central heating, electricity and creating a 120-seat restaurant.

Annie Christopher, local rapresentative for equity, said: “We have been working with the Partnership to raise this place’s profile on a nation wide basis. The story of Frankenstein and Shelley family are world wide famous so this may do a lot for Bournemouth because people may come to this place which is so unique and so special”.

Sir Percy Florence Shelley, actor and play writer, bought the property of Boscombe Manor for his mother Mary Shelley – author of the gothic horror novel Frankenstein – shortly before her untimely death in 1851. Sir Percy and his wife, Lady Shelley, loved the area so much they decided to make Boscombe Manor their country home.

He added the theatre to the west end of the house and it was visited by many notable poets and authors including Robert Louis Stevenson.

From 1911 the manor became a school, and it was later sold in 1936 to Bournemouth Council to become a technical college then later part of the Arts College until 2005. The main house was eventually renovated by Charles Higgins and it has been managed by Charles Higgins Partnership ever since.

“It’s a very personal place and it feels friendly,” Mr Keats said, “this communty is showing it really cares about this place by being so active and supportive and for this we need to demonstrate the community value and put this asset in place”.


Main picture courtesy: Alwyn Ladell

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