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The Grand Theatre, under its many names, has been a major part of the social and cultural life of Lancaster since being built in 1782.
In 1897 Frank Matcham, perhaps the theatre architect, designed and supervised an extensive re-modelling of the stage and auditorium.
1908 saw a fire which gutted the interior of the Grand, virtually destroying Matcham's work. Phoenix-like, less than eight months later, it reopened in the form you see today.
In 1950 ABC Cinemas, the then owners, decided that the Grand had no commercial future but help was at hand as in 1951 the Lancaster Footlights bought the theatre to secure a venue for amateur drama and music in the city.
In 1959, Footlights was served with a Compulsory Purchase Order as part of the St Leonardgate/Edward Street clearance for a relief road and industrial zone. This was overturned in 1960.
In 1978 the emergency (gas!) lighting system was found to be unsafe and the loss of the theatre licence with consequent closure loomed. Funds to install an electrical system were found by means of small loans and fundraising events. It was, however, becoming clear that major expenditure would be needed to halt the gradual deterioration of the building.
In 1979 Lancaster Footlights became a registered charity and launched the first of four covenant-based fundraising schemes which have raised more than £667,000. These schemes were aimed at providing funding for specific projects designed to restore and improve the Grand for its many users.
Today, as a result of these efforts, the Grand is in probably the best condition it has been since the rebuild of 1908. It is successfully operating as a venue for amateur drama, music and dance as well as presenting a wide range of professional acts.
The full history of the Grand theatre is available in the book:
"The Grand Theatre Lancaster : Into the Third Century" by A.G. Betjemann
Available from Box office: 01524 64695
£7.50 + Postage and Packaging.