Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Curtain Falls

High drama at the last full council meeting before the end of term and next month’s elections.

The Theatre Royal argument continues with the delivery of a petition with 4,416 signatures by Jacqueline Quigley. I’ll invite some debate about the finer details here but from where I was sitting, there appeared to be confusion over the role played by the Theatre trustees and Thanet District Council in clearing its considerable debts and changing its ownership. Many of these questions were, I think, addressed in the Q&A I have in a story link from earlier in the month but this doesn’t appear to be putting an end to a good conspiracy theory that lay in the minds of many of the observers in the public gallery.

There was a suggestion made in the meeting that Roger Gale, our MP, had refused to accept the petition but when I saw him the other day, I was given to understand that procedurally, he couldn’t accept a petition that had already been submitted elsewhere, which appeared to make sense to me at least.

So if you were at tonight's council meeting, did the answers finally reveal why the Theatre Royal is where it is today. Several Labour councillors were struggling with the detail, I concede, given by Chief Executive, Richard Samuel.

Another petition tonight was submitted by John Farley on behalf of a 1,000 Ramsgate residents, worried by the potential development plans for Montefiore Avenue in Ramsgate.

An energetic case was made for the defense of the green spaces; putting green, park and tennis courts and concern over the gradual loss of open, public green spaces on the island. I suspect that 99% of Thanet residents share the same concern as more and more new properties are squeezed into ever smaller spaces to meet the insatiable demand for more housing.

I even met Tony Flaig from the Big News Margate weblog this evening and the strangest thing, there seemed to be very little that we disagreed upon in regard to making Thanet into a better place for all.


DrMoores said...

I should add that through a bizarre coincidency, Tony and I discovered that we were both in the same year and probably the same class, at the Charles Dickens School. If our English teachers could see us now!

Michael Child said...

When local government make a decision that appears to conflict with the opinions of most of their constituents, who have elected representatives so that they themselves have a say in local decisions, that would otherwise be made by unelected bureaucrats it is not the rights and wrongs of the decision that are important. We are supposed to live in a democracy, should that not mean that a decision that is now obviously against the wishes of the electorate is reversed. The actors in this current farce need to know when its time to deviate from the script, before the lack of applause from the audience changes the cast. What worries me is will a new cast have a different script. Anyone auditioning care to say how they would play this one.

chris wells said...

Yes. As in the current business plan which is being pursued by the trust. ON the back of that plan in excess of £800,000 worth of public investment is available for the running of the theatre over the next 5 years.

There has been previous public investment but in haphazard and irregular lumps rather than a sustained position. This plan rectifys that.

It is not a new problem the previous labour administration to their credit put £10,000 per year into the theatre. To their debit, when a consultants report in 2001/2 recommended a different funding structure, the ARts Council paid up (up front actually 30,000 per year x 3 as an up formt lump sum) - perjhaps some of the current detractors of Arts Council monmey should be reminded of that; KCC paid up ; the labour run TDC kept their contribution at £10,000. When we took office in 2003, to our shame we missed that, although there was much else to correct from labours budgetary mess as well, and this only came back to haunt us as a crisis last year.

I have always done my best to help the theatre in every way I can, helping with grant applications where I could, using some of my councillors KCC allowance to support lighting board purchase and carpet. There are some real crocodile tears on show out there. Clive Hart outside yesterday jeering with the protesters, but he has never put any of his allowance money into the theatre, from KCC or TDC I believe. Why? Because, in truth, most of the local politicians reckon they have more urgent and needy cases to put money into than theatre lovers. They have not seen and worked with others outside the area who have seen art and theatre revive the spirit of a town, as I have in regeneration projects up and down the country.

The biggest lie is that the theatre was not broke. I have said before, this theatre was broke in every concievable sense of the word and had to be fixed if we were to keep it for the town. But not by simply paying off a debt and leaving the same arrangements that clearly had not worked to continue as they were, and be doing this all again in a few years time. That is why there is a plan. That is why all the funders agreed to fund the plan. We nust give that plan chance to work before we criticise any more.

Yes some people will have been hurt. That has happened before in the chequered history of the theatr royal in recent years. Lets hope we have got it right and heeded the advice and finally the theatre can go from strength to strength with all our blessings.

I am personally very sad for Michael and his staff. I do count Michael as a friend and colleague whom I have known for a number of years, and who would tell you that I have persoanlly done all I can to help the theatre, before this crisis, to try and avoid this crisis. AS has County Council colleague Alan Marsh.

Now we must all make this work and celebrate the continuity of the Theatre Royal in our town.