Fringe Box



Borough Council Advertises The Electric Theatre To Let

Published on: 16 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 17 Nov, 2015

Electric_Theatre_7_1024_768_80The tenancy of Guildford’s Electric Theatre has been put on the open market, months before a council working group is due to report on its future.

The move follows criticism in local media of Guildford Borough Council’s handling of its theatre review and reports that a takeover by the Academy of Contemporary Music (ACM) was to be allowed to proceed “on the nod”.

Cllr Geoff Davis (Con, Holy Trinity), lead councillor for economic development, tourism and heritage, who chairs The Electric Theatre & Yvonne Arnaud Theatre working group, implied at a business meeting held at the County Club last week that a deal with the ACM had been agreed.

He told the Surrey Advertiser: “Although I may have given a marginal impression it was a done deal, it is not a done deal, but it is certainly an interesting proposal.

“But I think some processes are now being accelerated because we do not want to lose that proposal. If it is the best going then it is obviously going to be looked at very carefully.”

Today Cllr Davis added: “The ACM proposal is competitive and would certainly improve the financial situation for this council in relation to the Electric Theatre.  We do, however, have to prove best value.

“This is why we are going through the process with Owen Shipp Commercial. They are completely independent and will provide a clear indication of the best financial offering for this council.

“All of this will be presented in a report to the Executive in early 2016 detailing the financial details of each proposal and also other community aspects that each proposal may bring.  The Executive will then be able to make the appropriate decision for the Electric Theatre’s future. ​”

Electric Theatre To Let Ad

Estate agent’s particulars for the Electric Theatre – available to let.

The Electric Theatre was originally constructed as an electricity generating works in 1913 and only converted to a theatre in the 1990s. According to the estate agent’s particulars it has a total floorspace of 6,035 square feet. The annual rent would be £125,000 and rates payable of £10,353.

Late last week another offer emerged from Nick Wyschna a director of The Guildford Fringe. He was quoted as saying: “I don’t want to go in, take over, change everything and do it my way.

“I will be talking to GATA [Guildford Amateur Theatre Association] and other community arts organisations in Guildford and asking for advice.

“My big thing is I don’t think the council are the right people to run the theatre.

“It is a community theatre, not just for the community to use to perform in, but also events for the community to see.”

He said he initially wants to take over management of the theatre, but has a five-year plan to launch a crowd-funding scheme to buy the building.

Cllr Susan Parker (GGG, Send), who was excluded by chairman Cllr Geoff Davis from both the museum and theatre working groups at GBC because she had, through The Guildford Dragon NEWS, encouraged public comment, said: “Personally, I believe it is part of the function of local government to support the arts generally.

“I think that Guildford should be supporting the Electric Theatre and community arts programmes and that the council should recognise the significant contribution of GATA in setting this theatre up in the first place.

“I also think, as others have said, that the costs are small compared to the very significant costs of Armed Forces Day, or renovating the council offices (£3.5 million), or paying consultants in relation to flawed projects on the local plan, all of which might be perceived as vanity or mistaken projects.

“I do not understand why this building has been marketed now, before any community consultation, or before the working party has reported. I also do not understand why the community bid, reported in the Surrey Advertiser last week, is not being given an exclusive opportunity to raise funds prior to a sale. At the very least, this would seem an appropriate course of action.

“That is, of course, assuming that there is not a preferred course of action which has already been predetermined.”

Clllr Davis also confirmed that his working group’s remit will also look at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre subsidy.

He said: “The Beckwith report has provided some ways forward on this and the group will now start looking at this issue.  Again, this will be in the report in early 2016.”

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Responses to Borough Council Advertises The Electric Theatre To Let

  1. Laura Sheppard Reply

    November 18, 2015 at 10:27 am

    How come the theatre’s tenure is up for sale before the working party completes its deliberations next year?

    We understand that the marketing of the lease is to test the market, see what other bids might exist and inform the working group’s report. Ed

  2. George Potter Reply

    November 19, 2015 at 8:34 am

    If the report is going to the Executive in early 2016 then why on earth has a deadline of December 4th been set for bids to take over the lease on the Electric Theatre? And how can anyone (other than ACM which have obviously been hoping for this for a long time) possibly be expected to put together a bid and secure funding for it in the space of just three weeks?

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