Saving the Customs House: Hopes cash grants and hotel plan will help give venue brighter future

Grants worth £6,000 have been approved for the struggling Customs House venue – with renewed talk of hotel plans expected to further bolster the venue in the future.
The Customs House in South ShieldsThe Customs House in South Shields
The Customs House in South Shields

Like most of the UK’s arts and culture sector, the South Shields theatre, cinema and arts centre has seen almost all its activity halted by the coronavirus outbreak, prompting the announcement of 27 job cuts earlier in September.

Borough chiefs have agreed to hand over £2,000 to the institution from funds set aside to help businesses struggling with the impact of COVID-19.

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And members of South Tyneside Council’s Riverside Community Area Forum (CAF) added a further £4,000 from other schemes, taking the total to £6,000.

Speaking at a meeting of the forum, which was held by videolink, CAF chairwoman Lynne Proudlock raised the prospect of even more money being contributed from the other CAFs which cover the borough.

She said: “I think just about everyone in the borough uses the Customs House to go to the pantomime at Christmas and I’m gutted it’s not on this year.

“I think it’s only fair all the CAFs are contacted at some stage to see if they will contribute to it.”

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The theatre, in Mill Dam, had been due to stage Rapunzel.

Despite reopening its cinema and restaurant on a limited basis, the venue has had to serve redundancy notices to 27 members of staff.

The council’s ruling cabinet raised the prospect of a previously discussed hotel being built near the Customs House as part of a wider regeneration project in the Holborn area, as well as safeguard the theatre’s future.

Ed Malcolm, the council’s cabinet member for Resources and Innovation, told the meeting: “We’re working closely with the Customs House to try and put it on a sounder financial footing.

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“Obviously it’s lost a lot of money since the outbreak, however we’re supporting the Customs House on that and this council will do everything it can to ensure it remains a viable and vibrant part of South Tyneside’s cultural scene.”

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