‘Disappointment’

YOUR report on the Worthing Theatres Trust (WTT) and its change of focus I found both disappointing and appalling.

Disappointment in the WTT for giving up so easily and appalled at the behaviour of the officers responsible for Worthing’s theatres, for which the leader of the council, Paul Yallop, felt obliged to apologise after their meeting with the WTT.

I would urge Jon Woodley and the WTT not just to keep up the pressure on the council, but actually to increase it. Even to the extent of putting a contingency plan in place for taking over the theatres at short notice.

Worthing Theatres management’s attitude at the reported meeting with the WTT; it’s staggering budget overrun; and the rejection of its ameliorating business plan by the Council’s Joint Strategic Committee all combine to make its position untenable. They manifestly can’t cope. As I’ve previously suggested, Worthing Theatres management are the problem, not the solution, and must be replaced at the earliest opportunity if the town’s theatres are to prosper and survive.

I would also urge Worthing’s councillors to consider why so many of the UK’s cultural organisations, from the Royal Opera House to Shoreham’s Ropetackle Arts Centre, all put trusts of one sort or another at the heart of their administrative structures.

As a matter of priority, councillors should be considering how such an arrangement could benefit Worthing, not least in terms how a trust might protect the council and council tax payers from potential budget over-runs.

I would recommend that councillors start their research by visiting Chichester, where they will discover what a well-run theatre looks and feels like. At the same time they should ascertain how a theatre trust can be not only be responsible for the running of a highly-successful and acclaimed arts organisation, but also be instrumental in a multi-million development project for a listed building.

As a council tax payer I would be more than interested to know why such a widely used system of theatre administration is not being used in Worthing, particularly as listed buildings are involved.

Also, why was this approach apparently not considered when the council was seeking ways of reducing the theatres’ running costs? It appears to me to be a scandalous omission.

The current management arrangements appear wholly dependent on the Worthing council tax payer and this situation now looks likely to continue. This has to be an anachronism when tried, tested, and demonstrably better alternatives are available.

Worthing’s theatres desperately need an organisation like a trust, which has a broader artistic outlook and access to a wider range of funding opportunities. It is my belief that maintaining the status quo in the current situation would constitute an unforgivable act of negligence.

Bill Hammond

St Andrew’s Road

Worthing