MEMBERS of Bolton’s thriving dance and theatre community say the planned closure of the Albert Halls for a year highlights the need for a dedicated performance venue in the town.
Many groups that regularly stage shows at the Albert Halls are now looking for alternatives while it is closed for a £6.5 million revamp, from February 2015.
Some amateur theatre groups are already struggling to find suitable places, following the sale of the Theatre Church, in Seymour Road, Astley Bridge, to private investors in 2012.
Its closure put pressure on groups to find alternative venues, with Walmsley Church Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society and Bolton Little Theatre throwing open their doors where possible.
The Albert Halls — used by groups including Bolton Premier Productions, BCMCS and New Rosemere AOS — was originally planned to be closed for nine months but the period has been extended while the transformation is carried out.
The development, subject to planning permission being granted, includes a new upmarket restaurant and cafe.
Dawn Dawson, from Dawson’s Academy of Dance & Stage, Great Moor Street, has put on shows starring her students at the Albert Halls for the past 20 years.
The youngsters will miss out performing in next year’s Remembrance Concert and pantomime and her annual dance festival is booked to take place at Middleton Arena.
She said: “We are trying to find new venues but there is nothing in Bolton with the same facilities.
“It does affect things because we all work towards the dance festival every year. We used to have it at Seymour Road.
“We are trying to find a venue but we can’t get funding or support. The Victoria Hall is beautiful but the facilities are not right.”
The Victoria Hall, in Knowsley Street, is not suitable for staging musical theatre and shows due to its layout and set-up as a concert hall, with no dressing room access or provisions for lighting and equipment.
Bolton Premier Productions’ 2015 show, Sister Act, was originally booked to take place at The Albert Halls in October and was moved to February, 2016, when the closure plans were first announced.
The group is now hoping the venue will be open in time for the rescheduled dates of February 3 to 7.
Miss Dawson added: “The Albert Halls have been a great support over the years. We have had some fantastic shows and raised a lot of money.
"It is exciting but it will leave a big hole over the year for the people of Bolton and the performers.“