Exeter Citizen | Corn Exchange review

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A review is set to be carried out on the future of Exeter’s South Street and the Corn Exchange block.

The review will assess what, if anything, needs to be done to the location.

The City Council is open-minded moving forward but accepted that improvements could be made to the area in light of the changing dynamic of the city centre. Leases to the Corn Exchange block come to an end in 2020.

The proposed review comes on the back of news that the Corn Exchange is performing well.

During 2015, the City Council run venue staged a total of 382 shows and events, bringing in a record income of £820,000.

The Council said: “The Corn Exchange is doing particularly well in it’s current form but we might ask the question ‘could it do better?’ At the moment, it has a capacity of 500 which limits the type of shows that can be put on. For this reason we are looking at whether a new performance venue is needed for the future.”

South Street will also be looked at as part of the review.

The West Quarter is a bustling hive of independent businesses and creative activity. However, South Street may to some people look a little unloved and in need of attention.

A detailed assessment will engage with businesses, residents and city centre groups on the best way forward. A steering group made up of interested parties will be set up and consultation events held.

A comprehensive analysis would enable the City Council to explore options in the area, such as improved signage, enhanced street amenities and the creation of a ‘draw’ to encourage visitors into South Street and on to the Quay.

ECC Media Release: Review set for Corn Exchange block and South Street [25 February 2016]

Scrutiny Committee: Economy: South Street / Corn Exchange Regeneration [03 March 2016]

Scrutiny Committee: Economy: Exeter Corn Exchange – Performance review  [03 March 2016]



Swimming Pool v Theatre for Exeter

I’ve been challenged by a resident on my views on Swimming  Pool v Theatre.

And I can only guess that by theatre, they mean a large city centre theatre to rival the Plymouth Theatre Royal, as Exeter DOES have both theatre venues and theatre companies, offering a wide range of exciting theatre and other entertainment – quite often serving up productions not seen this side of Bristol.

Exeter Corn Exchange (Capacity = 500)

*Exeter Northcott (Capacity = 460)

Barnfield Theatre (Capacity = 287)

*Exeter Phoenix (Capacity = Seated 216; Standing 450)

Cygnet Theatre (Capacity = 100)

*Bike Shed Theatre (Capacity = 80)

And in addition, there are theatre companies that produce their own work, and tour nationally and internationally:
*Theatre Alibi 

Le Navet Bete

And of course there is a relatively new an organisation based in Exeter which brings people together to design, promote and produce extraordinary live experiences.

Each of the organisations marked with an * is recognised by Art Council England to be of such benefit to overall arts offer  of the area and the UK that they are designated as a National Portfolio Organisation [NPO] as they play a vital role in helping ACE meet its mission of great art and culture for everyone. Each NPO receives a commitment of 3 year funding for their activities

As a professional theatre sound designer, I would love to be able to deliver a 1200 seater theatre capable of presenting large scale touring shows – but  such a theatre is likely to cost somewhere in excess of £47m to build and the city council would have to pay around £350k each year to a commercial operation to run the venue.

I can say this with some confidence as that’s what happens at the most recent civic theatre to be built in the UK – the Waterside Theatre in Aylesbury.

Just to be clear, I am not dismissing such a proposal out of hand – what I cannot support is a theatre that requires significant subsidy to operation. If a private enterprise came forward, I am sure that a compromise could be found. But there are no such propositions coming forward – either here in Exeter, or elsewhere around the country.

However, there is a case for a for a multi-purpose entertainment venue, which will need to be at least revenue neutral, if not income generating.

I am currently hopeful that the Theatre for Exeter Development Group will soon be commissioning an options appraisal  to  examine the feasibility of just such a venue as I know Cllr Rosie Denham, as the Portfolio Holder covering arts and culture, has helped them develop the brief for a consultant.

Although no site in the city centre has been identified, there are some obvious options that could become available in the next 5 years.

As to the Leisure Complex – there is a robust business case that shows that the facility will be generating a significant income for the city council at a time when national government is reducing central funding to local authorities and expecting them to be financially self-sufficient by the time the Revenue Support Grant is removed from councils by 2020/21.

Thus, the Leisure Complex will in time allow us to continue to work for the good of the city and its residents,  and – if a the options appraisal can give a viable case for a cost neutral/income generating venue – help finance that venue in the future.

I hope that helps clarify my position.

Exeter Pound Business Social | “The Exeter Pound is this city’s new way of seeing things”

At the top of this week Exeter Pound hosted our first Business social at the Exeter Corn Exchange. Local independent businesses heard talks from Alex Wren from the Federation of Small Businesses, Melanie Shaw from Exeter Pound, Start Block’s Hannah Lamarque discussed social media in business, and Cllr. Paul Bull, Member Champion for Community Engagement, addressed the crowd about why the council is supporting this scheme.
Cllr Paul Bull speaking at Exeter Pound's Business to Business Social
Cllr Paul Bull speaking at Exeter Pound’s Business to Business Social
Opening the evening, Paul spoke with passion about how he wants to ‘connect individuals to a wider variety of local, independent businesses in a colourful and engaging way… and in a way that can build financial and economic resilience’.

So much so, Paul stated that ‘I will take a percentage of my Councillor allowance of £4500 per year in Exeter Pounds.

‘We want to celebrate Exeter’s rich history, culture and diversity, and recognize the need to look after our environment for future generations’. The Cowick Councillor is one of our latest new Exeter Pound Board Members, along with local sustainable clothes shop owner Kalkidan Legesse who today features in the Express and Echo, and Honorary Fellow of the University of Exeter Clare Bryden.

Our growing team reflects the impact we are having across all sectors of the city. The words business and community are becoming less frequently viewed as opposing entities, and more often they are seen to be working together for mutual benefits.

The social marked the beginning of official sign ups, with advocate of the scheme Claire Bliss, owner of Quay Presents, taking the title of our first signed trader. Over 100 local, independent businesses will be signed up to this vibrant scheme by September 1st.