Fringe Box



Letter: The Electric Theatre Cannot Continue With Its Current Level of Subsidy

Published on: 14 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 15 Nov, 2015

The seaside's coming to town - outside the Electric Theatre.From Geoff Davis

Conservative borough councillor for Holy Trinity and lead councillor for economic development, tourism and heritage

As chair of the GBC [Guildford Borough Council] cross party working group on the future of the Electric Theatre, I should respond to the letter from Mandy Grealis, chairperson of GATA [Guildford Amateur Theatre Association].

The council has conducted itself most properly and efficiently in the urgent considerations of the Electric.

Before my time on the council, GATA were served notice in termination of their previous highly advantageous arrangement, as advised in the independent Beckwith report [the report can be found on GBC’s website].

That ended the discounted rates, especially as the theatre was (and is) losing so much money.

Ironically, and coincidentally, VAT needed to be added to all facilities in the theatre at that time. That is, of course, outside the council’s control.

We have met with Mandy and her colleagues on a number of occasions, and always had frank friendly discussions.

Each time, we have asked her whether her organisation could sign a lease, and take over the running of the theatre. Mandy has always said that would not be possible, on any basis.

Mandy knows that the subsidy per attendee at the Electric is at least £9.56, against £2.27 at the Yvonne Arnaud and £2.61 at G-Live.

This cannot continue, under current financial constraints.

Mandy has been approached one last time to make a proper proposal, and we all hope that will be forthcoming.

In accordance with the historic arrangements, GATA have confirmed bookings throughout 2016. Anybody taking on the Electric will need to honour those bookings.

GATA is far from an “easy target” as Mandy says. We really have tried to find an answer, but need a more pro-active approach from the organisation.

As stated elsewhere, I am always happy to engage with anybody with something positive to add to this challenge.

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Responses to Letter: The Electric Theatre Cannot Continue With Its Current Level of Subsidy

  1. John Robson Reply

    November 14, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    I have something positive to add, save the taxpayer money by refraining from using endless consultants to produce subjective and biased reports to use as an evidence base, because it suits an asset stripping agenda.

    Furthermore, utilising the “subsidy per attendee” criteria as the main basis of making a judgement, when the Electric Theatre (TET) only holds 210, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre (YAT) holds 600 and G Live 1,700 is a sad attempt at diversion. All three venues will have a comparable amount of fixed costs, but the TET will always look the poor relation in this type of analysis due to the limitation in numbers it can achieve, not everything should be measured in pounds and pence.

    Finally as a taxpayer, I request that Cllr Davis advises us how much GBC expends on consultants per annum and how he intends to reduce it.

    Also, why don’t you select the real “easy targets” for savings, please advise why the £3m upgrade of the council offices is necessary “under current financial constraints” and advise why this money couldn’t be utilised for the TET for the next 10 years?

  2. Jules Cranwell Reply

    November 15, 2015 at 9:22 am

    How proper was it to eject a GGG councillor from the theatre committee, on the basis that she may not blindly follow Davis’ edicts.

    Just how ‘independent’ was this Beckwith report? As ‘independent’ as the now discredited Hooper report into the Juneja crimes? As ‘independent’ as the GL Hearn nonsense of the housing numbers?

    Since the property Cllr Davis was elected, he has failed the Guildford Archaeological Society, and is now failing our theatres.

  3. Pauline Surrey Reply

    November 15, 2015 at 7:52 pm

    As I said in a comment on another article about the Electric, you cannot measure community assets like the Electric in terms of pounds, shillings and pence.

    How much did the consultants consult with users and audiences at the theatre? Did they spend much time in the town? How old are they?

    Was there not a previous consultation on various council assets back in 2009 or so? Was the Electric then not considered to be a well-managed and popular community asset? Who manages the theatre nowadays? Which council department is responsible for it?

    I agree wholeheartedly with Gordon Bridger that the subsidy looks very good value for money, when one considers all the different kinds of events it holds over the course of a year, from amateur dramatics, Book Festival events, folk music, jazz, comedy, Maypoles to Mistletoe every Christmas, Scriptease, the Film Festival, Surrey Mozart Players, theatre weeks for children and young people, and regular your theatre workshops, opera, ballet, vintage fairs, cabaret, wine tasting evenings, quiz evenings, I could go on and on.

    If we lose it, where will such events be able to be held? Please, please, don’t sell it off.

  4. George Potter Reply

    November 16, 2015 at 9:17 am

    People might have short memories but I remember five years ago when G Live was built at the expense of tens of millions of pounds to the council. It was handed over to a private company who are currently subsidised to the tune of £400,000 a year and yet charge prices so high that most community groups are unable to use the venue that our taxes paid to build.

    Perhaps Cllr Geoff Davis would like to look at ending the subsidy for a commercial venue run by a private company before he targets non-profit community organisations who require far less subsidy?

  5. Gordon Bridger Reply

    November 16, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Congrats to Mr Potter – good idea.

    Someone phoned me to ask who was the councillor they should write to complain about chucking out local thespians who did so much to ensure we had a community theatre on this site. I checked and was able to inform them that the councillor responsible for the Arts was Cllr Davis.

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