Colin Matthews has turned to the public for help in securing the future of the Babbacombe Theatre

A fighting fund has been set up to secure the future of Torquay’s Babbacombe Theatre with owner Colin Matthews vowing: “I will not let the virus kill off this unique venue.”

The theatre has been in darkness with no income coming in since the Coronavirus shutdown in March, the first time it has closed since World War Two. Colin, who has been at the theatre for 34 years, said: “I thought that it would probably last three or four months but that now is obviously not the case and certainly theatres are likely to be the last of the businesses to re-open.

“If social distancing remains the same when we can re-open, it would not be viable to trade because as a general rule we need to fill at least half of our 600 seats to break even.

“And if these restrictions are lifted how long would it be before customers are happy to sit beside a stranger again and would you want to laugh or sing along with a face mask on?”

Colin said the safety of his staff was also paramount, adding: “Last but certainly not the least are the performers - keeping two meters apart would not work on stage.”

He praised the Government for helping businesses keep afloat with the furlough payments.

“However, I know that it has not been easy for the acts who are self-employed to get payments. They are the lifeblood of the entertainment industry and more help is needed,” said Colin.

“The small government grant helped to get suppliers paid but more is going to be needed and for the first time I am having to apply for a loan.

“It will be some time before we can open our doors again and this is why I am appealing for help from the public.”

Colin took over at the theatre when it as was threatened with closure in 1986. He says: “Most provincial theatres keep open these days with subsidies or lottery grants but we don’t get any. But I have survived, and I will not let the virus kill off this unique venue.”

Donations can be made here: https://babbacombe-theatre.ticketsolve.com/confirm-donations