Never say never about a #Theatre4Exeter

I hope that no-one thought in my earlier blog, A new Theatre4Exeter MUST be financially viable, I was entirely dismissing the vision of delivering a city-centre theatre in the future.

The fact and figures where present to highlight why I feel that we cannot deliver it NOW.

Much of the discourse in the E&E and elsewhere seems to suggest that ECC cllrs have not even considered whether a theatre is viable now.

Trust me when I say I’ve led a delegation of key cllrs and senior officers to see Plymouth Theatre Royal (and their associated workshops, wardrobe and rehearsal space, TR2 – costing them close on £10m alone) and had informal chats with ACE.

Just like the general public at large, there are Individual factions of cllrs in favour, indifferent and totally against the idea of a new theatre. I would hazard a guess that some would like to see ECC follow Devon’s lead and cut all “arts for arts sake funding”.

Here in Exeter we (you) are lucky – there are 3 arts professionals within the ruling Exeter  Labour Group – and I know I’ll be doing my best to endure that Exeter continues to fund arts and culture.

We are only one of 3 local authorities in the country that currently spend 50p per week per resident

(this is the focus of the National Campaign for the Arts current campaign – 50p for culture: http://www.50pforculture.org)

Much is this is because of the amount that we spend on RAMM, but we still invest significant sums of money in a wide range of theatre provision. Looking at shifting this funding to a new theatre building would threaten Exeter’s current vibrant theatre ecology.

I am aware of the work of the Theatre For Exeter Development Group, as I was there at the original debate at Belmont Chapel organised by the Exeter Civic Group.

I welcome the action plan , and am looking forward to the thoughts of their theatre consultation on what they think might may be viable in the city.

If the report from their consultant can show a viable business case for a city-centre,  I am sure a suitable site could be found.

What I am less confident about is whether the City Council could (or even should) deliver the theatre.

The current report doesn’t seem to be wedded to this form of delivery – there is mention of local fundraising, trust funds, etc.

And the report doesn’t even know what sort of model would be used to run the theatre once it’s been built.

Let me play devil’s advocate for a second?  Especially if that business case might show some surprises.

When we started out on the journey towards a swimming pool, I thought that it would be a 50m competition pool or nothing. The business  case now shows that a 25m pool is needed in the SW – short-course competitions, water polo and many other activities are much more viable than a full 50m one.

What would be the view of the  Theatre For Exeter Development Group if the consultant could show a business case for city-centre theatre seating 750-1000, rather than the 1200 one to rival Plymouth Theatre (which seems to be the focus of the calls I’m hearing)?

I think I have to stop there and wait to see what the consultant’s report proposes.

Let me be clear, I have never said NEVER! I am a creative person and have managed to create magic out of nothing myself. Let’s see if we can do that it Exeter, even if it does take a decade.

So in theory if a viable business plan for a city-centre theatre (of whatever size) can be drawn up, I would be willing to consider it as part of the longer term strategy for the development of the city centre.
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