Uplifting news for St James Theatre

All go...Gore and Districts St James Theatre trustees Craig McIntyre and Yvonne Bannerman are very excited the lift, represented by this cardboard cutout placed in the theatre in 2019 to give the public an idea of where it would be positioned, is planned to be built in 2022. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

It is no longer a question of if a new lift will be be available to SBS St James Theatre patrons, but when.

A successful funding application for a $417,105 grant means the project to install the lift and seismic strengthening can go ahead.

The theatre is overseen by five trustees from different community groups who are part of the Gore and Districts St James Theatre Trust.

The lift is part of a five-stage $1,290,300 project to upgrade the theatre.

At a Gore District Council long-term plan submissions hearing last week, the group urged the council to help fund the $653,300 shortfall for the project.

However, after the hearing trust members learnt an application to the Lotteries Environment and Heritage Fund to cover two-thirds of the seismic strengthening of the building was successful.

Chairman Craig McIntyre said despite having only about 90% of the cost of the project, installing the lift and the seismic strengthening could start.

“This is just wonderful, unexpected [and] we are very grateful,” Mr McIntyre said.

The trust already had the money set aside for the lift and the aim was to begin the work in February 2022.

“Even though we still need money to do other things, if no money came in, those two things will still go ahead.”

The work needed to be done to bring the building up to the national building standard.

There was a $236,195 shortfall to complete the other stages of the project which included a new roof for the little theatre and an upgrade of the women’s bathroom.

Trust member Yvonne Bannerman said the original quote in 2019 for the project was $735,000.

“Delays are costly,” Mrs Bannerman said.

In the trust’s submission to the council it said without funding it was inevitable the long-term future of the theatre would be in jeopardy.

“People have got to realise if they don’t support the theatre, we won’t have a theatre.”

The trust had exhausted most of the funding options available to it and had received grants from Community Trust South, Transpower, Gore District Council and the Lottery Community Facilities Fund.

“Raising over a million dollars is no easy feat.

“Huge effort goes into completing mostly online applications.”

Many community groups had also contributed to the cause.

The theatre was opened in 1936 and featured Art Deco architecture, which had helped the trust with its request for funding from the Lotteries Environment and Heritage Fund, she said.