It is good to see that the borough council is still trying to make the Arts Centre sustainable as reported in your papers March 3 and 10. It has tried but failed a number of times.
I have tried to help officers over the years to find ways and means to increase interests in using the complex by attending consultative meetings to offer ideas butwith little progress. The trustees appointed have not succeeded either. The proposed schemes produced by consultants are very good but seemingly based upon the briefing from Cllr Nockolds, portfolio holder for culture, heritage and health, who has been very busy trying to make improvements around the town to make it “more attractive”. Good but we all have to live with the results, as we will with the proposals now for the Arts Centre to gut the robust stage, Green Room and auditorium seats paid for by public subscription, substituted with a flexible temporary stage option and lightweight seating to fold back for an elongated, perhaps hard to use, space for a flat floor. That is aimed at the apparent certainty of wedding and other bookings overflowing from the two-year backlog at the Town Hall and professional performances all run by the excellent management team at the Corn Exchange theatre, itself not always full more than 50 per cent of the time. I believe that the basic problem has not been identified over the years for the community who need and love the ethos of our gem of a theatre. It has always faced unfortunate ad hoc allocation of spaces in the complex needed to accommodate aspirations for art, craft and performance experience including variety, musicals, modern presentations and dancing school productions leading to the West End stage. Craft and art interests are lost now.
I believe that the solution is simpler, less costly yet beneficial by changes in space allocations needed to support these needs if the borough council could agree to make an annual contribution just to pay the wages of a charasmatic impressario piped piper sort of person plus a small share of the profits to encourage him, with a couple of dedicated assistants to lead a constant crusade within the community to resurrect interest. He would be expected to raise funds and donations within the community and large trading/industrial businesses about to be increased from the council’s land allocation of sites for massive housing development, consequential employment and perhaps more aspirations for the arts to be accommodated to make a profit and make it all possible without such traumatic destruction of the ethos of the auditorium space, not always expected to be in full use but available on demand. From profits, perhaps, and later, allow the White Barn to become assembly rooms. I feel I still have some untapped skills in retirement and handed a report reviewing the Arts Centre predicament to Cllr Nick Daubney in February 2016 just before the decision to close the facilities. I am sending to Cllr Nockolds a summary of how these thoughts might be made to work having already tried to help the User Group which seems to have capitulated, much as it did for the conversion of the Corn Exchange. There were borough council promises then to keep the theatre at the Arts Centre available for amateur aspiration in the community and hopefully borough councillors and Cllr Nockolds will seek a general way for that. I believe that the council should take a step back and think carefully about the consequences of what they currently propose. There is much to lose and much help in the community to assist and sustain the complex.
Desmond K Waite MVO
Bridge Street, Lynn