Shetland Charitable Trust and Shetland Arts have pledged their support for the Garrison Theatre in Lerwick, whose future has been uncertain, for at least the next three years.
The trust, which owns and maintains the theatre, and the development agency, which maintains it, said their support for the building would continue until 2020 when the current arrangements would be reviewed.
In the meantime a special group, The Friends of the Garrison, will be created to explore ownership, management and funding models to secure the long-term future of the 112-year-old, 280-seat theatre.
These developments follow on from the work carried out by a steering group set up by the two trusts along with representatives of Garrison user groups.
The news was welcomed at the conclusion of the County Drama Festival on Thursday evening by Islesburgh Drama Group president Martin Summers.
He said: “As some of you may know a number of regular users of the theatre including Shetland County Drama Festival, Open Door Drama, Islesburgh Drama Group and the Shetland County Music Club have been part of a working group that has been exploring the future of the Garrison Theatre.
“I am delighted to report tonight that both Shetland Arts and the Shetland Charitable Trust [have] agreed to continue to support the development and maintenance of the Garrison up to the end of March 2020 … I am sure that’s worth a round of applause.
“We will continue to work with both Shetland Arts and the charitable trust to secure a sustainable legacy for our wonderful theatre of generations to come.
“Moving forward it is essential that all drama groups and our wonderful audience join together to showcase the impact and need for amateur drama in this fantastic community resource.”
The aims of The Friends of the Garrison group will be to:
• Work with Shetland Arts to provide a range of volunteering opportunities to increase community involvement;
• Act as a sounding board for new pricing models for the hire of the Garrison that will enable Shetland Arts to invest in the development of drama for the benefit of the whole of Shetland;
• Develop a strategy for expanding and diversifying the use of the Garrison.
The steering group commissioned a survey in late 2016 and the results, together with details of the new volunteering opportunities and The Friends of The Garrison group, will be published in the near future.
Charitable trust chairman Bobby Hunter said: “Trustees were very clear that funding for maintenance of the building should continue, while the new group builds upon the excellent work of the steering group.
“It’s evident that there is a lot of support for the Garrison in the community, and I believe the way forward is for the community to take a greater stake in its operation and management.”
Shetland Arts head of creative opportunities Bryan Peterson added: “It’s been very constructive to work with the steering group over the past year and there’s been real progress made in developing a shared vision of the future of the Garrison.
“I look forward to seeing the energy and enthusiasm of all the venue’s supporters being channelled for the benefit of the theatre and drama development in Shetland.”