Netherton Arts Centre

This important locally-listed Victorian building has provided community and entertainment space for residents since its opening in 1883.

Auditorium of Netherton Arts Centre.
Address
Northfield Road, Netherton, Dudley, DY2 9ER
Risk Rating
4 (Community Rating: 2, Star Value: 1, Risk Factor: 1)
Architect
Unknown
Date of Construction
1883
Listing
Locally listed
Capacity
322

Significance

Originally named the Netherton Institute, this building is a handsome, locally-listed Victorian public hall. Its foundation stone was laid by the Countess of Dudley on 5 July 1883.

The building was in cinema use between 1910 and 1939 after which there was a short period of closure. It reopened after World War II as Netherton Arts Centre. The venue was operated by the council and hosted a range of professional and amateur performances, the mainstay of which was a popular repertory season by professional touring company, the Midland Theatre Company.

When the Midland Theatre Company disbanded in 1955, Netherton Arts Centre became home to amateur groups, including Dudley Little Theatre who had also performed at the building’s civic opening on 20 October 1947.

The building remained an active local venue used by amateur and community groups, including Dudley Little Theatre, until its closure in 2021.

Exterior of Netherton Arts Centre

Why is this theatre at risk?

Netherton Arts Centre was added to the Theatres at Risk list in 2022.

The building is owned by Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council and had been operated through council-run Dudley Performing Arts. Issues with charges and bookings saw the venue become less popular with local amateur groups, although Dudley Little Theatre continued to stage performances. Dudley Performing Arts moved into a new space in Brierley Hill in 2021 leaving Netherton Arts Centre vacant and with no means to hire it.

The council has no capacity to continue to operate the venue and will not subsidise any future operation. While there could be an opportunity for amateur groups to operate the venue, it is unlikely that they would be able to generate a commercial return on the scale required by the council.

The building also requires improvement and maintenance work and there appears to be little appetite within the council to carry out this work. There is an added danger that the extent of these necessary works increases as the building lies vacant and vulnerable.

Theatre potential

The building has the potential to become a successful community venue complementing Dudley and Stourbridge Town Halls and ensuring that the borough has a range of venues to attract a broad range of art and culture to the area.

Current situation

The theatre is currently closed, and the building is vacant leaving it vulnerable to fabric deterioration.

The council has been looking at options to revive and reopen the building, including for community use, and has undertaken a conditions survey to better understand the scale of the maintenance work and future investment required. The council continues to work with a local community group on a potential lease arrangement and it is expected that more will be known about this in the spring 2024.

Theatres Trust will continue to offer support and advice to the council and community groups working to provide a viable use for the building.

Main photo, Netherton Arts Centre by Dudley Little Theatre, exterior by Richard Clee.