Amulet Theatre

A gift to Shepton Mallet by the local Babycham brewing family, the Amulet is an unusual Brutalist theatre with a unique retractable seating system which may be the only one in existence in the UK.

Courtyard of Market Place, showing the entrance to the Amulet back right.
7 Market Place, Shepton Mallet, BA4 5AZ
Risk Rating
6 (Community Rating: 2, Star Value: 1, Risk Factor: 3)
Local Group
Local consortium of four organisations
Date of Construction
Not listed


The Amulet was built in the early 1970s, opening in 1975. Originally known as The Centre, it was re-named in the 1990s following the discovery of a Roman amulet in excavations nearby. A philanthropic gift from the Showering family, local brewers famed for Babycham, the theatre was part of a major redevelopment of Shepton Mallet funded by the family and was intended to provide a cultural and creative legacy.

Architecturally it is Brutalist in style (unusual for this area), flanked by a block of offices and retail units along Market Square that were part of the same development. The theatre is located at first-floor level and features a fly tower and large foyer. It was built with the best theatre technology of the time and designed to be flexible. Significantly, it includes what is believed to be the UK’s last remaining example of a motorised ceiling carrying seats, which descends to convert the flat floor of the theatre into a space with raked seating.

The Amulet hosted theatre, live music and film screenings and, as the only theatre in the town and with limited provision in the wider area, it became an important venue in this part of Somerset.

Why is this theatre at risk?

The Amulet was added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2022.

The Amulet was acquired by the Bristol Academy of Performing Arts (BAPA) in the mid-2000s, who refurbished the building, using it as an education and training centre known as the Academy, with a full programme of public theatre and performance use in the evenings. BAPA went into administration in 2011 and the Amulet was acquired by a private owner and has been closed as a theatre since. The auditorium has been in use as a gym, but there is no record of planning permission having been obtained for this use.

In July 2020, the owner of the Amulet submitted a planning application to convert the building into apartments with a portion of the ground floor converted into a retail unit. This would see irreversible alteration that would result in the permanent loss of this theatre as an asset for the town and its people. It would also see a private individual profiting from what was a gift to the people of Shepton Mallet.

Theatres Trust submitted a strong objection to the proposals, as did a number of local individuals, Shepton Mallet Town Council, and a consortium of local cultural organisations. Our submission cites a lack of evidence that the theatre is surplus to requirements and therefore the proposals conflict with local and national planning policy. While the building has been vacant for some years, this is not through lack of want in the community. We understand that requests from community groups to view or hire the building were left unanswered and that rents demanded were far in excess of what would be reasonable for a theatre of this size in this location. The application remains undetermined because Somerset is an area where decisions on residential developments have been halted due to phosphate levels.

In November 2021, a further application was submitted to progress the retail element of the scheme in the interim and we objected on the same basis. We are also concerned that there is a lack of clarity regarding the extent of the building, to which the proposed change of use applies and that this could unwittingly cause the loss of the building’s protected theatre status. The proposal has been supported by Shepton Mallet Town Council, although this carries no legal weight. The application remains undetermined by Mendip District Council.

Theatre potential

Although the theatre has been used as a gym, it is thought that it remains substantially complete and that it could be quite easily reverted to live performance use, or used for compatible mixed arts, community and cultural use. There is no other provision within Shepton Mallet, little within the wider area and great interest in the facility amongst local theatre and community groups.

In November 2023, a campaign group undertook a community consultation to gauge local interest in, and support for the theatre. The survey was overwhelmingly positive, with strong support for the Amulet to be restored as a community centre, which would also host theatre, cinema, and live music, alongside arts workshops and community events.

The campaign group is now moving forward with fundraising initiatives with the aim to purchase, restore and revive this key cultural venue. It is hoped a rejuvenated Amulet will also serve as a catalyst to support the regeneration of the town centre and high street.

Current situation

The addition of the building to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2022 resulted in several individuals contacting us to express their interest in using the venue for live performance / entertainment. We provided introductions to the owner and also between the groups.

In 2023 a local campaign group, Let’s Buy the Amulet was formed. Comprising of local residents and arts group leaders, and including some of those who had contacted Theatres Trust, it has launched a bid to buy the Amulet Theatre. The not-for-profit community organisation is being supported by Shepton Mallet Town Council. Theatres Trust has also been providing advice and support to the group.

In addition to the public consultation in November, which showed positive local support for the Amulet, the group has also been successful in its expression of interest to the Community Ownership Fund and invited to apply for funding to help them purchase the building. It is now applying for grants from other funders to develop a business case and proposals, to provide vital evidence to support their future application.

Theatres Trust will continue to advise and work with the local campaign group and council to see the Amulet brought back into cultural use.

Update March 2024

Campaign group Buy the Amulet has announced that it had been awarded grant funding through the Architectural Heritage Fund of £10,000 to develop a viability study. The group also secured a further £10,000 funding from the Community Shares Booster Fund for support in setting up a community business model, including legal registration and launching a community share issue.

Update April 2024

We have awarded Shepton Mallet Community Enterprises CIC a grant through our Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities grants programme. Read the full story.

Photo of the Amulet by Karen Mercer.