Fringe Box



Electric Theatre Petition With More Than 2,000 Signatures Handed to Borough Council

Published on: 23 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 23 Nov, 2015

Hatty Lawrence, Richard Seymour and GATA supporters with the printed e-petition at Millmead council offices this morning.

A petition calling on Guildford Borough Council (GBC) to think again about offering the Electric Theatre for rent has been handed it at its offices in Millmead today (November 23).

Organiser Hatty Lawrence who facilitated the epetition on behalf of GATA (Guildford Amateur Theatre Association) said that she was amazed by the amount of support the petition had attracted.

More than 1,200 signatures were gathered in just 24 hours after it was published online and today, six days later, that has grown to 2,200.

The petition was handed to Cllr Geoff Davis (Con, Holy Trinity), the lead councillor for economic development and chairman of GBC’s theatre working group, at noon. Cllr Davis said: “I will read and digest the petition, consult council officers and then consider what needs to be done.”

The petition is handed to Cllr Geoff Davis.

The petition is handed to Cllr Geoff Davis.

The council’s published rules for petitions indicate that only e-petitions created on its own web facility are acceptable, along with traditional paper petitions. But, James Whiteman, director of environment at GBC, said that its acceptability would be considered once the petition had been inspected.

GATA members present said: “Everything was moving too quickly, the decision seemed to be passing out of the hands of the community to people that don’t understand much about community theatre and whose whole objective appears to be economic.”

The petition is supported by comments as well as signatures.

Jennifer Toksvig, who has directed shows at the theatre, wrote in a supporting comment to the petition: “This theatre should be a community hub, not a teaching / gig venue. It would be a crying shame if it were lost from the community who worked so hard to set it up in the first place.”

Richard Parish wrote: “If the Electric was lost it would be an outrageous betrayal of the passion, vision and work of Bill Bellerby, Len Farley and others who knew the value of a community theatre run by the community for the community

Local resident Caroline Coleman commented: “We need this venue. How dare you think of closing something for the benefit of the residents of Guildford and the villages beyond. Not everything in life should be measured by money. Stop now please.

The Electric Theatre

The Electric Theatre

The council has emphasised recently that all options are still open for the Electric Theatre. Its future is subject to review by the GBC  “Electric Theatre and Yvonne Arnaud Theatre Working Group” chaired by Cllr Davis.

The review is being conducted to try and identify savings considered necessary in view of the anticipated further cuts in central government funding of local authorities. It is expected to report its recommendations to the Executive in the new year.

A council press release was issued after Cllr Davis appeared to imply at a recent breakfast business briefing meeting, at the County Club, that a deal had already been arranged for the ACM to take over the theatre. The rushed council statement stressed that all options are still open.

Shortly afterwards, the Electric Theatre was advertised by Owen Shipp Commercial as “available on a new 25-year lease”.

Electric Theatre To Let Ad

Electric Theatre To Let Ad

But the advertised terms of a lease have been changed. The property particulars now (November 22) state: “This property is available for a lease length to be agreed…”.

The alteration has been made since a comment, from Dragon reader Gerald Bland, was published urging the registration of places like the Electric Theatre as “assets of community value”.

Part of the GATA delegation Richard Seymour said: “The presentation today was [also] a formal application by GATA for the Electric Theatre to be registered as an asset of community value”

Under the government scheme, the owner of an asset of community value must inform the local authority if they wish to sell the asset.

If a group wants to buy the asset, they can trigger a moratorium for six months, to give them a chance to raise the money to purchase it. But if such an asset is leased for a period less that 25 years then it does not qualify for the scheme.


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Responses to Electric Theatre Petition With More Than 2,000 Signatures Handed to Borough Council

  1. Jim Allen Reply

    November 23, 2015 at 10:35 am

    So, “If such an asset is leased for a period less that 25 years then it does not qualify for the scheme.”

    Manipulation of the situation yet again by GBC to prevent the community and residents becoming involved?

    What is the matter with this council?

    Every time the community wakes up to a situation it is manipulated by the council to circumvent, prevent or ignore the wishes of the townsfolk. Who is behind this?

    It is time they showed their face.

  2. Pauline Surrey Reply

    December 2, 2015 at 8:53 pm

    The petition in the meantime has almost 5,000 signatures!

    Please sign if you haven’t already done so.

    Affordable theatre, music, dance etc.

    This place is a very important part of Guildford’s cultural life. It must remain so.

    Not everybody can afford G Live prices. And what is on offer at the Electric is quite different from at G Live or at the Yvonne Arnaud.

    • Fiona Juckes Reply

      August 7, 2021 at 11:06 am

      I support keeping the Electric Theatre open as an Arts venue. We need it, after what we’ve been through in the last two years.

  3. Sally Parrott Reply

    December 7, 2015 at 2:15 pm

    There’s always such a warm atmosphere at the Electric Theatre, perhaps because of the contribution of volunteers, as mentioned by Gordon Bridger.

    Two grandsons love their weekly drama workshops there with the Man in the Moon theatre company, and will be performing on stage at the Electric Theatre in MIM’s magical Christmas show, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, from 18 to 20 December.

    So exciting for them, and an affordable treat for audiences.

    Wealthy Guildford must be able to afford to keep this wonderful venue.

  4. Pauline Surrey Reply

    December 8, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Very nearly 5,000 signatures on the petition now!

    Dragon, can you please give us an update on what is going on?

    I know that the working group are looking at the bids that have come in today.

    What happens from there on? Could you give us some idea of timescales, please?

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