Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Hope for Southampton theatre's future despite NST closure

NST City
Image caption The NST city centre theatre opened in 2018

A theatre could re-open in the future despite the financial collapse of its operator, a council has said.

Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST) closed permanently with the loss of 86 jobs after shutting amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Its landlord, Southampton City Council, insisted the Studio 144 building could still have a "bright future".

Arts Council England said NST was experiencing financial problems before the lockdown began.

NST's city centre building opened in 2018 as part of the £30m "cultural quarter" development in Guildhall Square, but made a £500,000 loss in its first year.

Image caption Props, costumes and equipment is being sold to pay off creditors

The theatre went dark when the cornonavirus pandemic struck and went into administration in May.

Administrators announced it would close permanently when none of the offers received were deemed suitable.

Arts Council England said it had withheld a £1.9m grant as NST had been "in crisis for some time".

"Covid-19 undoubtedly had an impact on NST's decision to go into administration - this was the culmination of a number of problems over the past couple of years that the organisation were ultimately unable to resolve," it said.

It said it would "ringfence" the money to be spent in Southampton.

Garry Lee of administrators Smith & Williamson said NST's debts could stand at up to £400,000.

"There were plans coming together that looked like it may have returned surplus going forward, but coronavirus has had a significant impact as they had to close the doors," he said.

Image caption Satvir Kaur is confident the theatre will re-open in the future

The theatre is part of the arts complex in Guildhall Square in which Southampton City Council invested £20m.

Satvir Kaur, in charge of culture at the council said: "This space can have a bright future. We can absolutely still deliver the vision of a cultural arts base telling Southampton's stories.

"Obviously there's been bumps in the road but what we'll try to ensure moving forward, is whoever we work with next, we do have a long-term sustainable business model."

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