St Mary in the Castle, run by a Trust, is an iconic and listed building in Hastings at 7 Pelham Crescent run by the St Mary in the Castle Charitable Trust for the last ten years, but the lease is running out and, though trying to negotiate with Hastings Borough Council (HBC), they were unable to secure any further funding. This means that the Trust will not be operational after the end of November 2022.
Internally, it is such a special theatre with a horse-shoe-shaped auditorium with a stage at the front and raised seating plus a balcony, which makes it easy to watch all the performances and so much has happened there with operas, music of all genres, fundraisers, jazz festivals and art exhibitions in the cellar.
But the St Mary in the Castle Trust has been unable to recover from the devastating effects of the pandemic and is unable to continue without any further subsidy to return to the pre- lockdown operations – and any money which was made from the events went back into the upkeep of the Grade II listed building which can be expensive.
The Trust representative says: “We would firstly like to thank all those who have supported us over the years to maintain this marvellous building which has been at the forefront of everything we do. We hope that the next occupants continue to underpin the needs of this unique gem within Hastings.
“In three years the building is 200 years old so must be the oldest asset in the town’s portfolio. With various funds we were able to re-open in September 2021 and invested £80,000 in the last year to make it safety compliant but at the same time as funding was cut the cost of utilities increased.”
The Trust communicated with HBC showing them their new business plan but to no avail. St Mary’s Cafe and bar is leased from the Trust so maybe its future is also at risk subject to further discussions with HBC. The venue is going to run as usual from now till the end of November and all the booked events until then will take place.
The box office will also be open for the moment and they hope people will come to the last performance when they intend to finish on a high, with talented Aba Shanti on October 29, 2022.
Ian Bowden, Director of Rye International Jazz and Blues Festival, is no stranger to St Mary’s in the Castle having staged concerts there during 2020. He is also a rtustee and commented : “Not only as a trustee of St Mary In the Castle, but also as a producer of live concerts in the region, it is with huge disappointment that this incredibly special and unique venue is set to close. So many venues have been struggling post the pandemic and many have sadly had to close their doors because of the lack of future funding that is available.
“The trustees of this amazing building and the venue staff have worked tirelessly to secure its ongoing future over the previous two years. However, with funding avenues being exhausted and combined with the significant costs of maintaining a building of its scale and complexity, the trust has been left with no option other than to prepare to close the venue later this year.”
The Rye Jazz Festival has proudly presented three superb concerts at St Mary in the Castle with legendary singer and songwriter Judy Collins, Graham Gouldman, and the James Taylor Quartet.
Anyone who has booked beyond November has been contacted, the event cancelled and each will be reimbursed. For more information please phone 01424 715 880 or go to: stmaryinthecastle.org.uk
Image Credits: Peter Mould/Tony Ham .