THE number of visitors to Theatre Severn has risen as it approaches its 10th anniversary.

Shropshire Council, which owns and operates the theatre, said the number of visitors in quarter three of 2018/19 was 189,503, up from 184,756 in the same period last year.

And Councillor Lezley Picton, portfolio holder for culture and leisure, said it has proven a massive success for the county.

She said there had been some complaints when the theatre opened that it would turn out to be a white elephant.

But she said the upcoming 10-year anniversary was proof that “if you build it, they will come.”

She said: “I want to pass on my congratulations to everybody who had made Shrewsbury’s Theatre Severn a massive success.

“It is brilliant for Shrewsbury, brilliant for Shropshire and attracts big names and fascinating acts.

“Some people did have reservations about whether it would be a success, but it has been.”

Shropshire Council said the increase in visitors quarter-on-quarter can be attributed to a number of sell-out productions.

The theatre is also making a positive contribution to the visitor economy of Shropshire with 32 per cent of visitors continuing to come from outside of the county, Tom Dodds, the council’s intelligence and insight manager added.

The theatre was officially opened on March 25, 2009, and is situated on Frankwell Quay.

The need for a new theatre in Shrewsbury was first proposed more than 50 years ago and the project came very close to being approved on various sites. However, the continued success of the Music Hall post-2000 finally proved that audiences had outgrown the venue.

The re-opening of the Old Market Hall as a cinema & cafe bar in 2004 re-enforced this with the new venue proving a resounding success.

In September 2005 Shrewsbury & Atcham Borough Council committed to build a new entertainment venue in the town.

Construction began in November 2006. The architects for the project were Austin Smith Lord and the theatre was built by Wilmot Dixon.

In November 2015, Theatre Severn sold its one millionth ticket since opening.

Shropshire Council took over the ownership and running when it merged to become a unitary authority in April 2009.

Some of the big names to have appeared at the theatre include comedians Michael McIntyre and Paul Merton, television stars Michael Parkinson and Clare Balding and numerous stage productions.

Its annual pantomime each year sells more than 30,000 tickets.