Theatre For Exeter | Hopes raised for new theatre in City Centre

Wordle from "A new theatre for Exeter"

report on the Regeneration of South Street/Fore Street to go to next week’s Scrutiny Committee: Economy highlights that as part of  this work, there would be an examination of the need for a new performance venue in Exeter and whether the current building or its site has a role to play in meeting any such requirement.

As a result of this announcementI received this e-mail from Peter Goodwin, Chair of Theatre for Exeter Group CIC

Hello Supporter, Friend, Theatre Lover, etc.

You may have seen today’s edition of the local paper – the Express and Echo. But if you haven’t, here is a link to the article that gives wonderful news to anyone who has thought that Exeter could do with a new performance space. It was headlined on the front page with Hopes raised for new theatre in City Centre

Cllr Rosie Denham kindly made time to attend the meeting last night of the Theatre for Exeter Group so that she could tell us the news in person and give us a little more insight into the talks that have been talking place. She was very positive about the TFE group and expressed gratitude for the work that we have been doing over the past three years saying that our report and the further research that we have undertaken will be hugely valuable in the consultations announced today.

Her next step is to put together a steering group for the consultations and she hoped that the TFEG would stay together with a representative sitting on the new group. She feels that we speak with the ‘public voice’ as to what is needed in the city and she values our contributions. Work on forming the steering group will start very soon and it is hoped that the consultations will take place over the summer with a report ready before the end of the year. Of course, the entire City Council is being re-elected in May because of the local boundary changes but we are fairly confident that whatever happens politically, this project will have cross-party support and will be pushed forward.

So – thank you for your continued support, signing petitions, writing to the papers and to the Council, and especially to those who have donated to help us pay for the website (soon to be updated), brochures, public meetings, etc. The TFEG will continue to meet with renewed vigour as we are determined that now the ball has definitely started rolling (with a huge kick from the Council), we are not going to let it stop until it has reached its goal!


Do spread the word.


With best wishes,


Pete Goodwin

Chair – Theatre for Exeter Group CIC

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.