By Connor Steel
GOSPORT BOROUGH COUNCIL have confirmed that their ongoing plans to reopen the Criterion as an “entertainment and community venue” has been overwhelmingly backed by local residents following the public consultation survey this summer; which said that a total of 73 percent of respondents were “likely” or “very likely” to visit the historic ex-cinema.
As previously reported in the Globe, councillors brought the Criterion building with a plan to restore the building back to its glory years following two years of closure. Originally built in 1912 on Forton Road, this site was run as a cinema and theatre until the late 1960s before being turned into the Bingo hall. This closed in 2020 during the ‘Covid-19 pandemic’.
Councillors asked for feedback on this project earlier this year through an online survey; which was promoted in a large advertising campaign involving both printed products and social media. Twelve “face-to-face” events were held in areas of Gosport during this consultation period; all of which combined to get a total of 1,149 responses online or paper form.
Seventy-three percent said they were “likely” or “very likely” to visit this new facility once it is open, whilst a big majority said they were likely to attend events and activities across all ages. Only 21% stated they were unlikely to visit due to a range of concerns, whilst six percent were unsure about deciding at this time and would think again about this in future.
Over half of residents outlined interest in attending live music performances, film screenings and fairs or markets at the Criterion. Theatre and comedy performances were also popular with residents; whom further wanted to see a variety of events such as local music, bands, festivals, open-mic nights, and events involving multiple genres covering rock / pop.
Local organisations reported enthusiasm about the ongoing project with many wanting to be involved and the council is hopeful of planning more consultations through October to further establish “possible uses” for this building. This is due to include the Hampshire Cultural Trust who ran ‘safe’ tours of the site throughout last month, all drawing a full booking.
The council have stated that work is ongoing on this building to remove ‘weeds’ alongside repairs; whilst multiple safety inspections are scheduled to be carried out on parapets and the statue. Once this is all completed the large crown sign will be removed from its exterior, with more updates to be published by the council’s dedicated team via this online link.
PICTURED BY KEN ROE: Former Criterion building on Forton Road will be restored under supported council proposal.