KESWICK’S Theatre by the Lake has today announced new plans for a proposed £700,000 restaurant and cafe development.

The building will support the long-term financial stability of the theatre and the jobs it provides in the heart of the Lake District.

The news comes hot on the heels of the award of a £400,000 grant from Arts Council England towards the creation of the new building, which will be situated in close proximity to the theatre’s existing site and the recently enhanced Derwentwater foreshore.

Architects’ plans for the proposed new development are in their final stages and will be available for wider viewing in advance of being submitted to Lake District National Park planners for consideration. The proposals are for a ‘high quality, environmentally friendly building sympathetic to its unique lake front location and surroundings.’ The proposed new restaurant and cafe would be open all year and would replace the majority of the existing Lakeside Tea Gardens facilities, which currently operate fully on a seasonal basis only. “The theatre currently employs an average of 75 people and this development would certainly build on that figure,” said the theatre’s Executive Director, Patric Gilchrist. “But perhaps more importantly it will ensure that the theatre can become increasingly self-sufficient at a time when the future for arts funding is uncertain.

“We should not underestimate the importance of the theatre in terms of its contribution to Keswick and the overall attraction of the town as a leading tourist destination – not only for those people who travel here from around the UK and overseas but also those visitors from within Cumbria who come to Keswick because of its theatre.

“In these financially difficult times it is our job to find the means to ensure that the theatre not only survives as a thriving base for professional theatre, but continues its educational and outreach work with the local community.”

Cumbria Theatre Trust created Theatre by the Lake and the theatre is owned and run by the Trust. The trust is a not for profit company and is a registered charity which operates for the public benefit.

In addition to its resident professional theatre companies and its immensely successful summer season of plays, Theatre by the Lake also hosts local amateur dramatic and operatic performances, stages touring shows in drama, talks, film and comedy, dance and music and is also home to four major festivals in the fields of literature, film, jazz and mountain activities.

Since 1999, total audience figures are 1.5 million, performances have totalled over 8,000 and the total inward investment into Cumbria from the theatre has amounted to £11.5 million.

In the last financial year the theatre had a turnover of £3.26 million. Paid attendances at over 700 performances were 126,400, with 59 per cent of audiences (74,600) made up of residents of Cumbria and 41 per cent (51,800) visitors. In addition to its full and part-time or freelance workers, the theatre also has 200 devoted volunteers who travel from all over Cumbria to lend their support at performances.

“The development of the new restaurant and cafe is of vital importance to Theatre by the Lake,” added Mr Gilchrist. “A great deal has been achieved over the years but we cannot afford to rest on our laurels. This proposed development has the potential to create a more secure future for this very important regional theatre.

“We are delighted that the Arts Council has backed the plan to the tune of £400,000 and the fact that they have done so speaks volumes. We are confident that we can now move forward and make this a reality. If everything goes according to plan, the new building would open in the summer of 2014.”