British Government’s Estrela Hall ownership “rather grey are

Special Report by Chris Graeme [email protected]

A Government witness admitted in court last week that although a contested Lisbon theatre building and site was “assumed to be government property” ownership was a “rather grey area”.

At the inconclusive hearing on September 30 into the case that the Lisbon Players – the capital’s long-established English theatre company – are bringing against the British Government, the court heard three more witnesses from the Government’s side.

One of these was from Roderick Reynolds, who had been for a long time associated with the theatre, both as an actor and, later, on the management committee.

He said that the theatre building and land had always been assumed to be Government property, but admitted ownership was “a grey area”.

He told the court that the supposed “landlords” were the British Protestant School Fund, a charitable organisation representing the interests of the Protestant School which ceased to exist in 1910.

But the Lisbon Players has discovered from investigating the British Charity Commissioners website, that the British Protestant School Fund had not presented accounts or had meetings since 1973 and had actually wound up its activities and transferred its funds on September 14, 2010, the very date of the first court hearing.

Jonathan Weightman told the Algarve Resident on Monday that “although this had not yet come up in the case, it has been accepted as court evidence”.

The court also heard from witness Charles Roberts, who works for Christie’s Real Estate Portugal. He said he “knew little about the operation or history of the Lisbon Players” and his only connection with the case was as a member and officer of the Royal British Club, a business organisation that also has interests in the Estrela site and which has agreed to sell the building it occupies.

The Lisbon Players bases its case on “usucapião”, that is the peaceful, long-term and uncontested possession of a building.

In the past, the solution to the “problem of the Estrela site”, with its extremely hazy ownership, has been to transfer legal ownership to the various “stakeholders” or users of the properties on the site.

When the British Government came up with its proposal to sell the entire site – consisting of the old British Hospital, the Jewish Cemetery, the Royal British Club, the Parsonage and the Estrela Theatre – to developers, the Lisbon Players consistently refused to sign any agreement and remains firm about its right to remain in the building they have occupied since 1947.

The Lisbon Players are putting on a Festival of One-Act Plays at Estrela Hall, Rua da Estrela, 10, between October 14 and 30. The plays are Stronger by August Strindberg, Revenge by Georges Feydeau and A Jubilee by Anton Chekhov.

Performances in English take place on Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9.30pm and on Sunday, October 24 at 4.30pm.

Tickets are available, at between eight and 10 Euros, by either calling 213 961 946 or via the website www.lisbonplayers.com.pt