Council applauded

AS a passionate supporter of live theatre, I applaud the decision of Worthing Council’s joint strategic committee to reject the business plan put forward by the Worthing Theatres management team.

From the information available, it seems the plan was long on rhetoric but very short on the sort of figures by which it could be effectively judged.

I hope the committee will continue to reject any plan put forward that does not contain realistic figures that use the current deficit as a starting point.

However, your report still leaves me with a conundrum.

I cannot make up my mind whether I am watching a Greek tragedy, where the protagonists are fixed on the road to disaster by their own shortcomings – heroic though they may be – or watching some kind of farce where no-one is willing, or capable, of accepting the reality of the situation.

If Paul Yallop is “frustrated” at current attempts to reduce the theatres’ running costs, I suspect he’ll be positively frenetic this time next year if radical change isn’t made.

Similarly, I found his disappointment at the bids received from the procurement process to be absolutely hilarious.

What did he expect?

Far from stopping the process, I think he should have continued it, at least until such a time as everyone comes to realise that you cannot “buy-in” theatre on the cheap.

I suspect the process was stopped because the management team of Worthing Theatres told him what he wanted to hear – that they could maintain the current programming policy and cut the deficit at the same time. Now it appears that they, too, can’t deliver.

No-one should be surprised.

It should have been blatantly obvious from the start.

In my view, the crux of the problem is the collection of disparate buildings that the council considers as “theatres”.

The bottom line is, the big money-spinning shows can’t actually get into any of them. Similarly, the audience facilities offered fall far short of those offered by Chichester or Brighton.

Bringing catering in-house and new box office systems will not get anywhere near re-dressing this major failing.

The current buildings cannot sustain any form of commercial theatre without considerable subsidy from Worthing’s council taxpayers.

However, having been around for more than 2,000 years, theatre itself has proved itself far more resilient than either Worthing Council or the Worthing Theatres management team.

In my opinion, this won’t change.

A radical change of course is essential and it appears to me the management team at Worthing Theatres is a barrier to this and, consequently, is now the problem, not the solution.

They should stand aside immediately.

Having seen what has been achieved at Southsea’s Kings Theatre and at Shoreham’s Ropetackle Arts Centre, I believe it is time for control of Worthing’s theatres to be returned to the wider community. Then, and only then, when it is returned to its roots, will theatre in Worthing thrive again.

Bill Hammond

St Andrew’s Road