Theatre's future under review
By Annie DavidsonTHE future of a community-run theatre is in doubt if it cannot increase audience figures during the next two summer seasons.The West Cliff Theatre in Clacton is run by an army of volunteers and only has four paid members of staff.
By Annie Davidson
THE future of a community-run theatre is in doubt if it cannot increase audience figures during the next two summer seasons.
The West Cliff Theatre in Clacton is run by an army of volunteers and only has four paid members of staff.
It is subsidised by Tendring District Council, which has decided to review its funding to the 600-seat theatre.
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A five-year financial agreement currently exists between the council and the theatre, which expires in 2007.
Robert Taylor, the council's portfolio holder for leisure and community services, said the Cascade Review traditional summer show had come to an end three years ago after an 18-year run.
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He added the West Cliff Theatre Trust had then been given a new five-year contract by the council to run the playhouse and that has another two years to run.
Mr Taylor said: “It seems the standard summer show does not seem to be gathering audiences. There have been other problems in trying to take the show forward and different people have been doing it.
“For two years it was run by some people from Cromer, then a different group did it last summer. The result was the audiences have not really been there, therefore the income and quality has deteriorated.”
He added discussions had been held and it had been decided that the contract between the council and the trust would continue to run.
But council officers will begin talks with the trust about what will happen in the future once the contract has expired.
Mr Taylor said it was a possibility funding would be withdrawn, but stressed nothing had been decided.
“All councils have difficulty with funding and we do fund the Princes Theatre and the West Cliff Theatre, which are both in Clacton, and we have to look at the two together and see where we go forward,” he added.
Mike Freeman, chairman of the West Cliff Theatre Trust, said: “The council grant is not only about summer shows, it supports the rest of the year as well.
“It is true to say tastes have changed in seaside entertainment. Lots of people remember the halcyon days of Francis Golightly's Cascade Review, which ran at the West Cliff for 18 years.
“We are trying to change with the times to make the West Cliff attractive in the summer and the rest of the year.”
Mr Freeman added a show had been found for the upcoming summer season that met with the council's approval and it was hoped audience figures would improve.
“I am worried that the council is struggling to make ends meet financially. I am hoping the West Cliff will figure heavily on the things the community needs,” he said.
“It would be a great shame to lose a theatre which is run on a shoestring by volunteers. Without the support of the council we have got a problem. We hope over the next two years we will persuade them.”