Thameside Theatre

A popular local theatre equipped to take touring shows, located within a complex housing other arts and cultural facilities including a museum and library.

Exterior of Thameside Theatre, Grays.
Orsett Road, Grays, Essex RM17 5DX
Risk Rating
5 (Community Rating: 3, Star Value: 1, Risk Factor: 1)
Date of Construction
Not listed


Thameside Theatre is a purpose-built, mid-scale council theatre within a larger complex consisting of a library, museum, and civic offices. It is the only theatre provision for the town of Grays in Essex. It has been operated by the council since it first opened in 1971 receiving professional and community shows, staging an annual pantomime, and hosting smaller-scale work within its studio space.

Why is this theatre at risk?

Thameside Theatre was added to the Theatres at Risk Register in 2022.

In July 2021, Thurrock District Council declared the Thameside complex, in which the theatre is located, surplus to requirements and asked officers to investigate the sale or disposal of the complex.

The council had planned to vote on its permanent closure in March 2022, but following a campaign from the local community there were discussions about retaining it as a community-run facility. The theatre remains open, but its future is still uncertain.  

Thurrock Council’s ongoing financial difficulties have continued to put the theatre at risk.

Theatre potential

This is a functional and popular local theatre. It is equipped to receive touring productions, although some investment would improve the space. The issues with this theatre are the ongoing maintenance, upkeep of the complex and finding complementary uses.

Current situation

The initial decision to close the theatre was met by local protests, which prompted the council to reconsider the future of the building and delay a final decision on its disposal. Local community groups set up a charitable organisation, Thurrock International Celebration of Culture which, at the beginning of 2022, submitted a proposal to the council to take over operation of the venue. The council also received a further proposal from Waltham International College. Neither bid has yet been taken forward.  

In late summer 2022, news of the council's debt of £1.5bn surfaced leading to a declaration of bankruptcy.

In January 2023, a paper was submitted to the council advising it to sell assets worth £160m over the next eight years.  However, in November, the council confirmed that disposal of the theatre was not part of its immediate plans.  Since the venue appears to be operating at a loss, the theatre remains at risk.

In January 2024 Thurrock Council began a public consultation exercise on the relocation of the library and museum from the Thameside complex to the nearby Civic Hall. These plans do not include the theatre and a separate consultation exercise is underway in relation to the provision of cultural activities and events in Grays and across the wider borough. There is concern that the relocation of key services from the Thameside complex will further reduce the viability of maintaining the theatre.

Thurrock International Celebration of Culture has been successful in its application to have Thameside Theatre listed as an Asset of Community Value. 

Theatres Trust seeks to engage with the council to encourage bids that retain theatre use and to support the development of community bids. Should the building be redeveloped, Theatres Trust would seek an appropriate like-for-like replacement provision to provide users and audiences of the current theatre with the same professional standards of performance space.

Main image, Thameside Theatre by Theatres Trust