Fringe Box



Academy of Contemporary Music Wins Lease to Run the Electric Theatre

Published on: 6 Jan, 2017
Updated on: 7 Jan, 2017

The Electric Theatre, Guildford.

The Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) has been selected by Guildford Borough Council (GBC) to run The Electric Theatre.

The selection follows a bidding process. GBC have not said who else made a bid nor how long the lease is to run but it is understood that the lease will run for around 20 years and commit the ACM to providing a percentage of days for community use.

In November 2015 the theatre was advertised for rent by GBC on a 25-year lease. At that time several individuals and local organisations where reported to have expressed an interest, including: the Guildford Amateur Theatre Association, Paul Wyschna of the Guildford Fringe, the Boileroom and local entrepreneur Michel Harper.

Following a further consultation exercise, a second invitation to tender for a lease was issued in late spring 2016. Fewer parties are understood to have continued with the process at that stage.

Today’s (January 6) council press release stated: “The go-ahead has been given to secure the future of the venue for the community and residents with a lease to a new operator.

“Following a formal bidding process, a local organisation, the Academy of Contemporary Music, is set to run The Electric Theatre as a performing arts venue with community use.

Cllr Nikki-Nelson Smith

Lead councillor for heritage and the arts, Cllr Nikki Nelson-Smith (Con, Christchurch), said: “Following careful consideration of the proposals against set criteria, we are extremely pleased to announce that ACM is to be awarded the lease to run the venue.

“Our main aim throughout this process has been to maintain the theatre as a performing arts venue with community use. Granting the lease to ACM is an excellent solution for securing the future of the venue and we are absolutely delighted to have achieved a positive way forward for the theatre – an important achievement for the working group, the community and everyone involved”.

The new lease will also remove the council’s subsidy for the venue – saving the taxpayer and the Council money.

Cllr Nelson-Smith continued: “Over the past nine months we have been exploring fully all aspects of the process for an outside organisation to run the venue. Following widespread consultation last year, we gathered views from interested organisations and groups on the practical options for operating the theatre in the future as a performing arts venue with community use, with the aim of reducing or removing our current subsidy.

“The proposal from ACM provides longevity for the theatre and secures the venue’s future for the community and residents, while removing our subsidy for the venue. We look forward to working closely with ACM over the coming months.”

Once the lease has been signed, work will begin on setting up the new performing arts venue, with ACM taking over later in the year.

Kainne Clements the executive chairman of ACM said: “In addition to our ‘not for profit’ commitment, which is, in fact, how ACM has operated its teaching provision for 21 years here in Guildford, we will work openly and transparently to make visible and reduce the costs of staging an event at The Electric Theatre through the absorption of overheads into our core business, increasing its accessibility for the community as we do so.

ACM staff and students, in March 2016, with executive chairman, Kainne Clements centre, shaking Paul Spooner, the leader of GBC’s hand, presenting 1,500 letters of support for its bid to lease the venue.

“It is an honour to be entrusted with the care and future of this much loved part of Guildford’s arts scene, and we are grateful to the local community and Guildford Borough Council for their support throughout the process.”

“Having our proposal recognised through the bidding process as the best and most viable option for the theatre means that its future is now safeguarded against any reduction of public subsidy in the area of arts and it can therefore look forward to a more prominent position within Guildford as the ‘go to’ venue for all kinds of community interaction and collaboration.

“We look forward to developing future strategy for theatre, with community at the very heart of it.”

The “Hands around the Electric” event in January last year (2016).

In a statement issued this afternoon by a spokesperson for Guildford Amateur Theatre Association (GATA) which had campaigned against the council’s decision to lease the theatre by raising a 2,000 signature petition and organising a Hands around the Electric event, said: “GATA is pleased to hear that ACM have won the bid to become the new manager of The Electric Theatre.

“Our association has been campaigning over the last year to ensure that The Electric Theatre, in the heart of Guildford, remains an accessible  venue with affordable hire rates and ticket prices for both amateur and community theatre groups and the ticket buying public.

“The public consultation gave a clear message that the theatre is valued by Guildford residents and that it “provides culture and educational benefits and is a unique and niche facility”.

Mandy Grealis chairperson of GATA said: “We have contacted ACM to congratulate them. We hope to build a new and exciting relationship and will start by discussing how amateur and community theatre will feature at the Theatre beyond March 2017.

“The Electric Theatre is the only local venue to provide entertainment at affordable prices for all the community across the borough and GATA hope to continue providing this in conjunction with ACM in the future.”

Nick Wyschna artistic director of the Guildford Fringe Theatre Company said: “I wish them all the very best with it and have already sent my best wishes to Kainne.”


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