I have been thinking about this for a few days. It does certainly seem to be true that over the years quite a number of the theatre organ groups and individuals have succeeded in getting councils interested enough to allow them to install a preserved theatre organ in a civic building.
Stockport and Worthing are obvious examples, but there are lesser known though equally well-used installations such as Ossett, Abingdon, Louth etc. In one case that I can think of (Burton-on-Trent) the council themselves actually replaced an ageing and nearly defunct concert organ with a Wurlitzer!
What remains to be seen is whether any of our local organists' associations have the manpower, skills and wherewithal to consider approaching a council who own a disused instrument with a view to 'adopting' it. I'm not for one minute suggesting that they muscle in on the territory of an organ-builder, but if instruments like Dover, for example, are currently unplayable and not on maintenance, then there may be some scope for a project to at least get it into some sort of playable condition.
Such arrangements are always subject to suitable insurance and references, but they ARE possible if the will is there on both sides. Lewisham's Compton (which is actually in Catford!) is a case in point. An approach was made by an interested individual who put forward a project plan. The council were pleased to have someone take an interest, and were prepared to put a small budget towards it. The end result is that after a silence of around 15 years the organ once again sounds glorious, and has found favour in the newly-revitalised venue.
If one gets involved with such a project, a healthy relationship with the local organ-builder is very desirable, and I would advocate using them as much as funds allow once you are in a position to raise some - i.e. when the organ is playable to a sufficient standard to put on the occasional lunchtime recital with a player prepared to accept its limitations. As funds improve the council may well take more of a financial interest themselves, but in any case it's then an opportunity to pay for further professional work on an as-and-when basis.
A project with which I am involved relies on our organisation (not the local organists' association I hasten to add) carrying out repairs and maintenance on a voluntary basis. We use the services of our local organ builder/tuner to carry out any specialist repairs such as to pipework, and he is also contracted to carry out the tunings. The modest profits from concerts are split between ourselves and the venue, as is the cost of tunings. As it happens this is not a civic installation but a commercial one, but the methodology is the same.
As one who loves the 'town hall' type of recital programme of big organ barnstormers mixed with transcriptions, I only wish I lived somewhere where there was such a hall and organ. Swansea isn't too far away, but doesn't tend towards this type of programme, and St. David's Hall, Cardiff, while a civic venue, is about as far away from a Town Hall organ as it is possible to get!
The key to making the initial approach definitely has to be "softly, softly" though, as councils are very quick to dismiss bands of volunteers of any type as 'nutters'....