Picton Theatre on shaky ground

A structural assessment of Picton Little Theatre is urgently needed. Photo: Matt Brown.

An historic Picton building is at risk of being destroyed should a large earthquake strike.

Picton Little Theatre has been part of the town for more than a century.

But members of the iconic drama draw are anxious it may not survive a future shake.

Talking to Marlborough District Councilors last week, acting chair Carmen Gimpl asked for money to put towards a full structural report in the long-term plan.

“The concern is will we be safe in the event of a large earthquake.

“It’s highly likely we’ll need up to $26,000 to complete a seismic assessment and then we’ll look at the design work that needs to be done.

“As one of the oldest buildings in Picton and were there to be a large earthquake … we have a duty to make sure the building is safe.

‘We’ll be very grateful for funds so we can start this journey as soon as possible,” she says.

The exact year when the Dublin St theatre was built is not known but best guesses put it around 1885 or 1886 when it was known as Forrester’s Hall.

Picton Drama Club later took up residence, in the first instance as sole tenants under a rent to buy arrangement.

The purchase was finalised in 1982.

Carmen Gimpl and Joy Fletcher. Photo: Matt Brown.
Carmen Gimpl and Joy Fletcher. Photo: Matt Brown.

The building hosts a amateur theatre, concerts, meetings, table tennis, dance classes and private functions.

Carmen says the committee had great plans for the theatre, but safety was a top priority.

“It’s a great little theatre. It’s cosy and well equipped. It seats up to 100 people and holds up to 130.

“There’s potential to do more and there’s enthusiasm within the committee to make that happen.

The theatre underwent repairs in 1999 but big changes in building codes means structural changes will need to take place.

“We’re in the process of updating the interior but maybe before we do all that we should find out what structural work needs to be done.

“There is no other community venue in the Picton CBD that can accommodate up to 130 people – and certainly none with PLT’s impressive heritage.

“The building has significant community and heritage value and it is important to protect and enhance this asset for Picton and Marlborough residents and visitors”.

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