PLANS to expand backstage facilities at Torquay's Princess Theatre could take a step forward this winter.
Torbay Council is proposing to submit a bid to the Arts Council for a grant towards an extension expected to cost between £4million and £5million to enable the theatre to stage more West End and pre-West End productions.
Currently musicians in some productions, such as in Starlight Express which is returning next January, had to perform in separate temporary units, and sets are moved in out of lorry trailers as there is no storage.
The aim is to create a facility which would compete with the likes of the Theatre Royal Plymouth. While the number of seats would remain the same, the facilities for scene changes, changing rooms and sets would meet modern standards.
The expansion plan is part of a revised arts and culture strategy being drawn up in conjunction with the Arts Council. A bid for funding is expected to be made this winter.
Cllr Dave Butt, who represents the council on the South West Regional Arts Council board, said: "Extending the theatre is our number one aim. We want to get in the big shows. The theatre is on a long lease to the Ambassador Theatre Group and the bid will be done in conjunction with them. We won't know if we could get funding until early next year and it may not happen until January 2014 and would take six months to complete."
A meeting has taken place with the Arts Council representatives in Torbay, looking initially at the Bay's plan for capital projects and smaller schemes the next three years and looking 10 years ahead.
Currently £1.75million has been identified for the region which has to be spent by March 2013.
Cllr Butt said: "We are probably looking at £200,000 to £300,000 coming Torbay's way currently. But there is a long list of projects.
"We will be setting up a small, specialist high level strategic board for Torbay involving the Arts Council and top level funders which will link in with the council's new events forum.
"In September during the Agatha Christie Festival we will have a cultural seminar day to which we will invite anybody and everybody involved in culture in Torbay. That seminar will feed into the new strategy which will not just cover the arts but museums, libraries and other culture.
"We will pull festivals and events together, as a spin off alongside the mayor's events forum. We want to attract some big festivals and look at the potential of our international links. We will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Hamelin twinning next year.
"It will also be a maritime year as the Royal Torbay Yacht Club and Royal Torquay Regatta are celebrating their 200th and 150th anniversaries."
There are plans for a film symposium this autumn to develop a yearly film festival.
Princess Theatre general manager Wendy Bennett said: "ATG fully supports Torbay Council's bid for Arts Council England funding as we are continually looking at ways of investing in our venues and improving the theatre going experience for our customers.
"Any opportunity to improve the facilities at the Princess Theatre would be a welcomed move, enabling us to bring the biggest touring productions and musicals to Torbay and providing a much needed boost for the area."
Among the other cultural events planned are art work on the hoardings around Torre Abbey and a major maritime themed exhibition next July/August when the abbey reopens.