At the council’s resources committee last night a recommendation was made that monies should be set aside for improvements to the Castle Theatre. This recommendation will be considered by the full co
The Castle Theatre was first opened in 1995 and was run by contractors until the council was handed the keys back in June 2016. Since then the council has made sure the doors stay open, putting on a range of shows and events with a skeleton but enthusiastic interim team, until a new operator can be found. The search has now begun; we have to follow a fairly lengthy procurement process because of the value of the contract, but the hope is that a new operator will be in place by the end of 2018.
When the council found itself unexpectedly in charge of the theatre last year, we carried out a range of surveys to check the state of the building and its equipment. The news was not good: there had been very little updating or maintenance since it was first built, and there were serious doubts about whether this would be an attractive proposition for a new operator. All of the essential works to make the building safe for customers and staff have now been done, but – to make it fit for purpose - we need to replace lighting, heating and cooling systems, and repair the roof to the old cattle market hall. In addition, the sound, lighting and stage equipment is dated and can be unreliable. The total cost for this is just over £1m. If approved, the plan is to carry out some of the work in the next eighteen months, and then consult with the new contractor to make sure the money is spent in a way which will help them to deliver an excellent service.
Because the council sees the theatre as an important part of the local community the decision to support the spend on repairing the building, as well as providing reliable and modern equipment, was unanimously agreed. The Leader of the Council, Councillor Martin Griffiths, said “The theatre is at the heart of our community. We know how many people were worried when they thought it might close, and how much support we received when we re-opened it after two months. Local community groups are back; we have had many well-received amateur performances since last autumn, as well as numerous popular professional shows. I am very much looking forward to our new Christmas show ‘The Wizard of Oz’ and would like to thank the staff who have continued to work hard to keep the theatre alive in very difficult circumstances. I, and the whole council, look forward to a positive future.”
The Leader of the Opposition, Councillor Andrew Scarborough, said “I wholeheartedly support this proposal. It’s a necessary investment to secure the long-term future of the Castle Theatre”.