SAVE THE CONNAUGHT: Worthing theatre groups call to save venue

Worthing's Connaught Theatre
Worthing's Connaught Theatre
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ACTORS and stage professionals are attempting to find way to save Worthing’s Connaught Theatre.

Jon Woodley, of First Avenue, Worthing, said the Herald’s exclusive report about the threat to close the theatre was being circulated among professionals and amateur dramatic societies around Sussex, with a view to setting up a charity, overseen by a board of trustees, in a bid to ensure the future of theatre in the community.

In a letter to council leaders, he said the Connaught should be given the respect it deserved and hoped finances would not overrule the importance of this cultural asset.

Worthing Musical Comedy Society

Susan Mulkern, chair of Worthing Musical Comedy Society (WMCS), which has been producing two shows a year at the Connaught since 1981, said she was shocked by the Herald’s report.

She said: “Only last year, we were jointly celebrating the 75th anniversary of both our society and the Connaught Theatre at a Gala Evening there, as well as entertaining over 5,000 local people with our production of Beauty and the Beast in October.

“Of course, we are aware that council budgets all over the UK are being cut, but it seems very short-sighted to consider closing the Connaught in favour of the Pavilion.

“Only last year, the council spent a considerable amount of council taxpayers’ money on refurbishing the auditorium and facilities at the Connaught. Is this worthy investment now to be completely wasted?”

Andrew Taylor, also of WMCS, said: “I protest most strongly at the possible intention of the borough council to close the Connaught Theatre and spend additional money to try and adapt the Pavilion.

“I have lived in Worthing for almost 60 years and have witnessed the systematic destruction of so many jewels.

“The Connaught has just completed a costly renovation, all of which would seem a total waste of money.

“Nothing could replace the Connaught. Worthing will have the heart ripped out of it if this gem is lost.”

Worthing Light Opera Company

Jon Henwood-Wardle, vice-chairman of Worthing Light Opera Company, which has staged shows at the Pavilion for 40 years, feared being squeezed out of the seafront theatre if the Connaught closed.

He said: “We are very lucky as a town to have two large operating professional theatres.

“Brighton has only one and it’s three times the size of Worthing.

“The Connaught’s closure would affect us if acts came over to the Pavilion and took up our slots, pushing us out.

“However, it could be sold for the better, with a big private company like the Ambassador Theatre Group coming in, which would work in our favour.”

Joan Kemish, secretary of WLOC, said: “I feel it would be a tragedy if any of the three venues were closed.

“The Connaught goes back a long way and is a very attractive theatre. Parking is easy, compared to the nightmare at the Pavilion, which is driving theatre-goers away.

“The Assembly Hall makes a fine concert hall. It seems that at times of financial difficulties, the arts are the first to be hit.

If we lose any of these three theatres we will never get them back and Worthing will be all the poorer for their loss. I feel sure that most people would be pleased to pay a little extra on their council tax to keep the venues open.”

Have your say

Why do you think the Connaught Theatre should be saved?

Send in your opinion using the coupon published in the Thursday, February 17 edition of the Worthing Herald, or write in to Save the Connaught, Newsdesk, Worthing Herald, Cannon House, Chatsworth Road, Worthing, BN11 1NA.