Selsey Pavilion set to be restored to past glories thanks to lottery grant

Selsey Pavilion is to be restored to former glories and refurbished as a multi-purpose arts and heritage centre – thanks to a major new grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund.
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It’s a hugely significant moment in the six-year journey so far to secure a new life for the iconic town centre building.

The funding of £249,405, announced on the eve of the building’s 110th birthday and made possible thanks to National Lottery players, will go towards the purchase of the building. The hope is to complete the acquisition best case scenario by the end of the year; worst case, by next March. And depending how it all goes, it is possible that the venue could be open for events and cinema screenings by next summer.

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Chairman of the Selsey Pavilion Trust Christian Skelton said: “We are ecstatic to have received this grant. Our journey to bring the Pavilion into community ownership is nearly complete, thanks to National Lottery players. And our dream of creating a vibrant community arts and heritage centre for Selsey is a huge step closer to reality!”

Selsey Pavilion is set to be restored (contributed pic)Selsey Pavilion is set to be restored (contributed pic)
Selsey Pavilion is set to be restored (contributed pic)

The Heritage Fund grant will allow the charity to unlock its Community Ownership Fund grant, awarded in March, and bring the Pavilion into community ownership for the purchase price of £400,000. The funding will also support a part-time community outreach role and several exciting community-led heritage projects.

The Selsey Pavilion, constructed in 1913, is a rare and original art deco theatre and cinema hall. It was a multi-purpose entertainment venue in its heyday, hosting popular community events and famous performers, including Nijinska’s Russian Ballet, Nelson Keys and Bransby Williams.

After the Second World War, the Pavilion became a popular full-time cinema and hosted seasonal pantomimes before closing in the mid-70s. It’s been a long-held ambition by many in the community to re-open the Selsey Pavilion to the public, and thanks to National Lottery players, it can now become a reality.

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Christian admits to a huge sense of relief: “It was not a given and it's been a long journey. I've been chairman for nearly three years and after I took over I have been really trying to get things going full steam ahead but back in the beginning it seemed a massively daunting task… but now we are there!

“I think it's really exciting news for what it will bring to the community. It will give everybody something to be proud of right in the middle of the town. It's such an iconic building and everybody will be able to rally around it. It's going to be very much a community arts and heritage centre and actually the heritage aspect really is going to be an important part of it.

“We have appointed solicitors now and we are going to have a busy three to six months working with the solicitors to secure the purchase.

“And then because of this grant and other grant funding we have we will have around £120,000 to spend on essential repairs. It will be filling the holes in the roof and fixing the guttering and putting in a proper disabled toilet and it will allow us to get into the main hall and we hope that that will allow us to get in there for cinema and occasional amateur dramatic work – optimistically at the earliest possibly next summer. It's going to be very much staged work. And the idea is to do bits and pieces off-season. At first the building will remain unheated and uninsulated, but once we are in there, we are hoping that we'll be able to generate the income to get on with the rest of the refurbishment proper and restoration which could be 2025 or 2026.”

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Stuart McLeod, director of England – London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Investing in heritage means investing in the community it belongs to, which is why we are proud to support the Selsey Pavilion Trust with this project. It will bring this building back to life for its community, by its community. We know that heritage can play a huge role in bringing people together and creating a sense of pride in people’s hometowns and cities, and in turn, boosting the local economy, and this project is a fantastic example of that.”

The Selsey Pavilion Trust is a registered charity run by community volunteers. Established in 2017, the Trust exists to secure the long-term future and prosperity of the Selsey Pavilion for the benefit of Selsey and the Manhood Peninsula.

Grant funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund enabled a project viability study in 2021 and subsequent project development work on a longer-term restoration project. In March 2023, the Trust was awarded £299,400 from the Community Ownership Fund after a competitive bidding process in December 2022.

The Trust also runs an “educate and inform” programme that delivers regular talks on the Selsey Pavilion, email newsletters, and the expansion of a digital archive of over 1,000 historical records covering the Selsey Pavilion’s illustrious past.

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Active collaborations with other local organisations are also in place through involvement in the Selsey Community Forum, a collective of voluntary organisations, and partnerships with Selsey’s schools and local organisations.