Portsmouth community theatre to close at end of year

St Peter's Church St Peter's Theatre has been in use since 1923

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A theatre in Portsmouth which has provided community arts for almost 90 years is to close at the end of 2012.

St Peter's Church in Southsea is relocating and selling the church building and the adjoining theatre it owns and operates.

The Hampshire church said rising costs and a dwindling congregation were the reasons behind their decision.

Campaigners say hundreds of people use the theatre, which has facilities such as a raked stage and a fly tower.

Built in 1923, St Peter's Theatre has been used as a venue for theatre groups from around Portsmouth as well as community organisations who make use of its side rooms.

Congregation 'dwarfed'

However, the church says the size of the 1880 church building "dwarfs" the congregation. Less than 60 people attend the church, which has the capacity for 700 people.

It also says the buildings will cost £1m to maintain over the next 20 years.

The church thinks the money would be better spent on a new building.

St Peter's Theatre The theatre hosts amateur theatre groups from around Portsmouth

The Rev Alex Hughes, vicar of St Peter's Church said he had "huge sympathy" for the actors who used the church's community theatre.

"Some of the members of the theatre group are members of the congregation. I hope it's not the end for them. It would be a great shame."

Campaigner Dill Dawson said the theatre groups had raised £40,000 over the past eight years to refurbish the theatre.

"One million pounds over the next 20 years sounds a lot, but that is only £50,000 per year and that's not an unreasonable amount to spend on a building.

"We have had no discussions with the church or the city council about ways to keep this building open, and this is what we want to do."

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