The future of the Castle Theatre is now brighter following the first informal meeting of the Castle Advisory Group last week.
The group is made up of councillors, officers of the council, Hazel Clover – who was instrumental in re-opening the theatre after its sudden closure last June, and Barry McIlroy, the chairman of the Friends of the Castle.
The first task of the cross party group is to put together an Arts and Culture Strategy for the borough, for consultation with all councillors and the community. This strategy is not limited to the Castle Theatre, but is essential in that it will help the council to determine how limited budgets may be used to support the arts and culture in the whole borough.
Tender documents for the new contract to run the theatre will be based on this strategy, the hope being that a new contractor can take over in mid-2018.
Councillor Martin Griffiths, the Leader of the Council, said “The council decided to make a significant investment in the re-opening of the theatre because that was the message that came to us loud and clear from the community when the Administrator closed the doors on 23 June 2016.
We are proud of how much Hazel Clover and her team have achieved, and the programme being offered, but now the time has come to find a permanent organisation who has the expertise to provide the type of venue that local people want. We were very pleased to include Barry McIlroy in the Advisory Group. Barry has the experience and the ear of the many valued volunteer stewards and performing arts groups who give up their time to support the Castle; they talk to our customers and know what people expect of their theatre. Now is the chance for anyone in the local community to let Barry or the council know their vision of the theatre and arts in general in the future. I am really confident about the future of the Castle and look forward to working with the whole group to evaluate all the alternatives and opportunities that are ahead of us.”
The council can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org; all comments will be taken into account by the Advisory Group.
The council has set up a temporary team in the theatre for the next year, led by Shelley Rooke on a part-time basis. Shelley is an experienced theatre professional who is working with two Deputy Managers – Heath Garrioch, who has years of knowledge and experience in running the technical side of the Castle, and Julia Wells who (as the council’s Events Officer) is very used to working with local groups and managing events in the community. Shelley said ‘I look forward to working with the council and the team on this exciting project; this is a wonderful venue and it is something the people of the borough should be proud of.’