THEATRE fans could have the return of a critically-acclaimed production to the region to look forward to, once lockdown ends.

Bosses at Durham City’s Gala Theatre hope to secure Billy Elliot writer Lee Hall’s The Pitmen Painters for its programme of events.

The play opened in Newcastle in 2007 and has since included runs in London and Broadway, in New York.

The cinema side of the Gala Theatre’s business has suffered since multiplex chain Odeon opened its own venue nearby in the city last year.

But with theatre and other live events continuing to perform strongly, culture chiefs for the county hope to be able to make the most of their main attractions.

“Pitmen Painters may be brought up later this year,” said Helen Ross, strategic culture manager at Durham County Council, which runs the venue.

“There are certain things which can speak to who we are as a theatre and Pitmen Painters really links to that, so we’re looking to bring a few high profile events to the Gala in the next few months.”

Ms Ross was speaking at last month’s meeting of the council’s environment and sustainable communities overview and scrutiny committee, before lockdown measures were introduced, including the closure of cultural venues.

Plans such as cutting one or even both cinema screens from the Gala are also being considered.

Inspired by real events, The Pitmen Painters tells the story of a group of North East miners who began taking art classes in the 1930s.