High school drama row

A ROW has erupted after a village high school said it could not accommodate stage productions by a local drama group.Stradbroke High School has a 25 year link with the village group, known as STRADA.

A ROW has erupted after a village high school said it could not accommodate stage productions by a local drama group.

Stradbroke High School has a 25 year link with the village group, known as STRADA.

It has regularly hired the stage venue - the only one in the village - since the 1970s, but now finds itself homeless.

School headteacher Dave Shorten says the school cannot accommodate the group's requirements and has cancelled bookings for its spring production.

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Yesterday, he defended the decision, saying his pupils had to come first. There were ever-increasing demands on the stage and hall for pupils, and it was needed for GCSE drama work.

STRADA said it had difficulty booking the stage for its regular autumn and spring productions.

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Its last production, A Streetcar Named Desire, had to be staged outside the village for the first time in the group's history.

The group highlighted a claim by the high school in a bid for Government business and enterprise funding that it has "a crucial role in supporting the community in any way that we can", and that the school "acts as a theatre for several local performing groups".

Ros Redelsperger, chair of STRADA, said they were "very disappointed" at the decision, and that it had become "increasingly difficult" to negotiate for use of the hall.

"We were told last year that the stage was not available to us at any time during the autumn when we have a regular production.

"Recently we were told it was also not available to us for our spring production. Mr Shorten blames increased use of the stage by the school for the situation.

"We accept, of course, that such use has increased but feel that a school which boasts of its good links with the community could have found ways of accommodating us," she said.

Mr Shorten said they welcomed community groups as much as they could, and had offered the group use of the stage in the school holidays but it did not want it then.

"Unfortunately, the stage is in the hall which is our biggest space and the most busy space in the whole of the school," he explained.

"Nothing stands still. The way education has changed is enormous and right now normally in term time we need that stage to be empty," he said. "We have tried and tried and tried, and we can't find a way round it."

One critical issue was that the group particularly wanted the stage in term time rather than in the school holidays when they could be accommodated. Another issue was that when they were doing a production, the props occupied much of the school stage for at least a week, when GCSE drama students needed it for their work, he explained.

"It's just impossible to accommodate what they want to be honest," he said. "First and foremost we are a school. First and foremost my responsibility is to provide a high quality education for our children."

n An idea to extend the local community centre to include facilities for drama productions is currently being explored by the new Supporting Stradbroke organisation, which is due to report to the parish council.

However, the drama group fears that even if the plans are adopted, it could take several years for the facilities to be available.

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