By Rachel Mulrenan
The South London Theatre (SLT) has been awarded funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to restore its premises, the Old Fire Station in West Norwood.
A development grant of £157,800 has been given to the South London Theatre Building Preservation Trust (SLT BPT), enabling the theatre to develop an application for a £1.5million grant to finish the work.
Plans to restore the Grade II listed building, on Norwood High Street, include installing a lift, improving disabled access and opening up the building during the day for community use.
Bob Callender, who leads the project for the SLT BPT, said: “We were delighted when we heard the news- this is a project many people have been working on for many years.
“We all went straight to the theatre bar to celebrate!”
One of the few remaining Victorian stations, built in 1881, the Old Fire Station was taken over by the SLT in 1967, having previously been used as a church hall and venue for the occasional illicit boxing match.
For the past few years the theatre has been under threat of closure as a leaking roof and crumbling ceilings have made obtaining insurance increasingly difficult.
“We’re extremely pleased to give initial support to this project,” said Sue Bowers, Head of the Heritage Lottery Fund for London.
“The Old Fire Station in West Norwood, South East London, is of significant heritage importance as well as being a much loved community venue.”
The SLT needs to fundraise a further £250,000 for the restoration, set to cost £2 million altogether, and Mr Callender appealed to the local community to support the project by visiting the theatre bar or seeing one of its shows.
Bent, the hard-hitting story of a gay man in 1930s Nazi Germany, is running at SLT from May 7-11- visit http://www.southlondontheatre.co.uk or call the box office on 020 8670 3474 for tickets (£4-£10)