Theatre group forced to move over costs

A THEATRE group has warned that a community centre is pricing itself out of the market after being forced to move its shows out of its home town to save money.

Annie Davidson

A THEATRE group has warned that a community centre is pricing itself out of the market after being forced to move its shows out of its home town to save money.

The Creative Amateur Stage Theatre (CAST) has had to stop rehearsing and performing at the council-run Columbine Centre in Walton-on-the-Naze because of high charges.

Secretary Jill Lashmar said the group last used the venue in summer 2007 when it put on Stepping Out but has since rehearsed in a nearby snooker club for less money.


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CAST staged its Christmas show at halls in the Clacton area but hopes to find an alternative Walton location in the future because the group originated in the seaside town.

Mrs Lashmar said CAST had paid £24 to rehearse for an evening at the Columbine Centre and had to leave by 10pm while its current rehearsal venue, also in Walton, was just £17 with no time limit.

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She added that a block booking of a Saturday evening with rehearsals every night the proceeding week was £1,245 with extra charges for a lighting operator and stage manager.

She said the Columbine Centre also kept 10% of the price of each ticket it sold.

“Originally the Columbine Centre was built for local people but the small local groups cannot afford to use it,” said Mrs Lashmar. “We are a non profit-making group and in previous years we have always given a generous donation to the Essex Air Ambulance so we are not in it for the money.

“But the cost of using the Columbine Centre is prohibitive to us and, I suspect, to groups like us.”

Chairman Derek Simpson said the group, which has been running for six years after separating from Frinton Musical Theatre, was now staging its shows in Holland-on-Sea and Jaywick.

“We are very disappointed as we loved putting on shows there but we were really priced out,” he said.

“It became impossible and we almost felt they did not want the inconvenience of having groups in there.

“The last show we put on, the summer show, we lost in the region of £800 compared to using another venue and we couldn't let that continue.”

CAST is paying between £90 and £99 for one night's show and a rehearsal night at its new venues.

The Columbine Centre was built and is run by Frinton and Walton Town Council, and mayor Terry Allen said yesterday the prices had been reviewed by the Recreation and Amenities Committee and found to be reasonable.

“It is sad to lose groups but we have got to run the place for a reasonable return and while it is subsidised we can't subsidise it any further,” he said. “It is not a charity, it is run by the local community for the local community and its charges are well within what is accepted around that area.”

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