Fringe Box



Letter: We Have First Hand Knowledge of the Council’s Conduct Over ‘The Electric’

Published on: 12 Nov, 2015
Updated on: 12 Nov, 2015

The seaside's coming to town - outside the Electric Theatre.From Mandy Grealis

Chairperson of the Guildford Amateur Theatre Association (GATA)

In response to the  headline question article: ‘Is the Review of the Electric Theatre Truly Open?’ my answer would be: “No”.

I, as GATA chairperson, and the GATA committee who represent all the amateur groups who perform at the Electric Theatre, have first hand knowledge of the way the council is conducting itself in this matter.

GATA have only had three meetings in the 11 months of our notice period being served, despite continually asking for the opportunity to put our proposal forward. Our only meeting with the full working group was misleading and we were not given an opportunity to state our case.

The other two meetings with councillors (not the working group) were to give us the news that no new agreement would be forthcoming and that we would have to pay the same rate as other commercial or non amateur users and, more recently, to confirm that the ACM proposal was “not a done deal”.

We all know what that means.This increase hire fee would mean the end of many community and amateur groups.

Does the council no longer want GATA around? It certainly seems like it.

GATA have been an easy target for GBC.  No opportunity has been given for us to present our proposals as to how the theatre could increase turnover and reduce their subsidy. The venue was created for the people of Guildford to enjoy accessible culture – it has never had a remit to make money so it is unfair to get rid of it without giving it a fully strategic opportunity to pay its way

The fact that Guildford Borough Council (GBC) approached only a handful of stakeholders and did not openly go out to tender to establish if anyone wished to put a proposal forward that would keep the theatre as a venue for community and amateur theatre is the answer to the headline. No the review of the theatre is not truly open.

There is untapped potential at the Electric Theatre – GBC could team up with schools, individuals with learning difficulties, make a social space for the elderly and create internships and work experience roles.

If the theatre were to be leased to “another” organisation, it is highly likely that they would have little or no interest in local community theatre and this would mean that Guildford will not only be losing a home to amateur theatre but also affordable Family Festivals, screenings of art house films (not shown by The Odeon), Jazz events, accessible opera and so much more.

Guildford already has two commercial venues; The Electric Theatre is the jewel in the crown of Guildford because of why it was created and what it stands for.

To finish I would like to answer the question posed by Pauline Surrey in her letter: “What will become of amateur theatre in Guildford if the Electric Theatre is let to the highest bidder?” GATA’s answer: “At this time we don’t know.”

Let’s hope the council’s Executive see sense and not just pound signs when it meets in January.

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Responses to Letter: We Have First Hand Knowledge of the Council’s Conduct Over ‘The Electric’

  1. John Robson Reply

    November 13, 2015 at 8:43 am

    I wish you luck, but it appears yet again that the “trajectory” has been set.

    To prop up his failing economic policy and offset the ever increasing deficit, David Cameron has instructed his councils to sell off whatever assets aren’t nailed down.

    GBC’s Conservative councillors appear to be relishing the task, they know the price of everything but the value of nothing. Guildford is being managed like some giant car boot sale.

    But unfortunately if you keep re-electing a party who’s doctrine is: “There’s no such thing as society”, sadly this will continue to be the net result.

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