V&A set to close theatre museum

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The Independent Online

A museum celebrating London's heritage as a leading theatrical centre is to close after more than 80 years.

The future of the Theatre Museum in Covent Garden was thrown into question when the Heritage Lottery Fund twice refused to back refurbishment plans. Trustees of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which administers the Theatre Museum, said they were left with little choice but to close it, despite entreaties from figures such as Judi Dench and Vanessa Redgrave.

The Royal Opera House expressed interest in a rescue plan, prompting talks on a joint partnership. But both the Opera House and the V&A announced yesterday that they would be unable to proceed with a new centre on the site of the museum in Covent Garden because they could not raise sufficient funds.

Tony Hall, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, said: "Though there has been a huge amount of moral support for the Theatre Museum, money for the most part has not been forthcoming."

Mark Jones, the director of the V&A, said: "We remain committed to safeguarding and displaying these collections which celebrate Britain's unique theatrical heritage in costume and stage design."

The V&A is proposing to rehouse the theatrical collection, with a new gallery at its main museum site in South Kensington.

Vanessa Redgrave called on David Lammy, the Arts minister, to halt the V&A's closure plan. "It's unacceptable that the V&A has unilaterally decided to close the Theatre Museum," she said. People in the performing professions would be willing to raise funds to add to the "paltry" sums already available and there should be discussions on a partnership, she added.