Bury St Edmunds: Board delays decision on theatre’s future

A THEATRE support group is “delighted” there is to be a period of public consultation before a decision over the venue’s future is made.

The level of consultation has been a major concern for supporters of the Theatre Royal, in Bury St Edmunds, who feel a management merger with the Apex in the town could spell the end of the playhouse.

They feel a proposal to jointly run the two venues would put the Theatre Royal under financial risk as the borough council-owned Apex is heavily subsidised by taxpayers.

At a meeting of the theatre’s board of trustees on Tuesday, they discussed two proposals – a management contract for a single operation of the theatre and the Apex, and the continued independent operation of the theatre with potential for shared services.

The board agreed public consultation would be undertaken until January, with full details of public meetings to be announced.


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Simon Spence QC, of the newly-formed support group launching the campaign Don’t Bury Our Theatre, said: “We are delighted the board has reconsidered its timetable generally and feel they need to do further public consultation. They have had some consultation with the patrons and volunteers and so forth, but there hasn’t been any open-door public consultation about it. And I think some of the difficulties that have arisen have been because of people not knowing the detail that has been proposed on either side.”

A final decision by the full board had been due to be made on November 26. Peter Jones, vice-chair of the board, said: “The board has already spent productive time to consider options and advice, but needs fully to test the respective operational, financial and artistic viability of both models. Consultation with our stakeholders is essential to that. Our duties as trustees of a charitable organisation also have to be considered. It’s important we do not delay unnecessarily, but have to ensure any decision is the right one in the long term.”

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At the meeting, chair of the board, Brian Stewart OBE, stood down as chair and board trustee. The borough council will continue its two-year review of the Apex and is keeping the door open for any future form of collaboration with the theatre.

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