Private owners take over Cardiff’s New Theatre
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
A private company has taken over the operation of New Theatre in Cardiff with its first show booked in for September.
HQ Theatres now runs the 1,144-capacity theatre, at the southern end of Park Place.
The takeover marks the end of a long-running privatisation process which began in 2014.
Cardiff council, which used to run the New Theatre, decided to privatise it in 2019 due to the high cost of running the building and expensive backlog of maintenance work.
Councillor Peter Bradbury, cabinet member for culture and leisure, said: “I’m delighted we have been able to reach an agreement that safeguards jobs and the theatre’s future, ensuring many more generations will be entertained for many more years to come.
“HQ Theatres is one of the UK’s leading theatre operators and has already played a major part in the New Theatre’s success, producing Wales’ biggest pantomime there for the past 20 years through Qdos Entertainment. They understand Cardiff audiences and we are confident that knowledge and expertise will see the New Theatre flourish.
“I for one am excited to see the curtain rise on this new era at the New Theatre and, now that lockdown restrictions are being lifted, we eagerly await the re-opening of the New Theatre in September and wish the new operators every success.”
HQ Theatres, part of Trafalgar Entertainment, took over a 25-year lease on Monday, August 16. The New Theatre is the operator’s 12th venue in the UK. Existing staff at the New Theatre will transfer to employment under HQ Theatres.
The first show booked in, since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, is comedian Simon Amstell on September 19. Then the musical Priscilla Queen of the Desert will show from September 20.
The council first proposed privatising the New Theatre in 2014, and then backtracked in 2017, deciding to continue running the venue in house. But in 2019 the council again decided to privatise the venue, and HQ Theatres won the bidding process later that year.
Julian Russell, chief executive of HQ Theatres, said: “We’re thrilled to be taking on the operation of the New Theatre. This building is a jewel-in-the-crown of Cardiff and a venue that the whole of Wales can be proud of.
“Our aim is to build on the solid foundations at the theatre; to bring exciting new shows to the city; and to develop audiences and to drive improvements in the customer experience — while respecting the rich history and excellent reputation that the venue enjoys.
“I would pay tribute to the whole team at the New Theatre for their commitment, dedication and resilience through the past 16 months — and we’re truly excited to be embarking on this journey with them as we work to open the doors up again.”
The company runs theatres in other locations such as Southend-on-Sea, Guildford, Swindon and Crewe. It promised to invest and improve front-of-house areas in the 115-year old building, and also work with local communities across Cardiff.