Consultants takeover Basildon's Towngate Theatre

Privateisation?: Towngate Theatre

Privateisation?: Towngate Theatre

First published in Local News Exclusive by

CONSULTANTS are being brought in to run Basildon’s Towngate Theatre after the sudden exit of its manager.

Basildon Council is paying a company £53,000 to run the town centre theatre for six months, while it finds a replacement.

Manager Graham Sandford quit his job after a review of the St Martin’s Square theatre’s operations called for improvements to the way it was run.

A council source involved with the theatre told the Echo: “Graham left suddenly and from what I understand, there was no notice period.”

The decision to bring in the Charcoalblue company – which is involved with the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal National Theatre and Glyndebourne Festival Opera – has prompted fears the theatre might end up being privatised.

Since its opening, in 1989 the Towngate has enjoyed a chequered history, with almost as much drama as the shows on its stages. In the Nineties, spiralling costs even prompted the council to close it.

Echo: Labour leader Nigel Smith outside the Basildon Centre

Concerned: Nigel Smith

Labour opposition group deputy leader Nigel Smith said: “My fear is this could be the beginning of outsourcing. That would be appalling. It would make people angry, as it is very popular.”

A report to councillors, after Mr Sandford quit, said: “The theatre has been undergoing a review of progress against the business plan.

“The theatre manager has left, An initial report has been provided to the council on areas for urgent improvement.

“The council cannot cover all the requirements of a theatre manager. This is critical at this time of year for the theatre, aswe are beginning the process of producing the annual pantomime.”

Kevin Blake, Tory councillor responsible for the theatre, denied the move was a prelude to privatisation.

He explained: “Consultants have been employed to provide interim management to the theatre, and to assist with the recruitment of a new manager.

“There are no plans to outsource the service.”

However, Mr Smith remains concerned for the future.

He said: “I do not have any confidence in bringing in outside consultants. Why on earth does it take so long to recruit a manager?

Other officers involved could do it until a replacement was found.

“The Towngate belongs to all of us. There has been no consultation and no debate.

“I am very sorry Graham left.

He was involved in the Towngate for many years and it had been a success.”

Comments (4)

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10:12am Mon 21 Jul 14

Howard Cháse says...

That will undoubtedlygive the Council an excuse to vote for another expensive face lift for this troubled money pit of a theatre.


Maybe when they shift the market to St. Martin's Square they can let the traders use that part of the building as storage etc....

Perhaps they could knock the whole Basildon Centre down in order to relocate to the site of the now closed Post Office and incorporate it into the 'Leisure Square' plans. They can demolish the excrescence that is Westgate too and shift the town Centre Westwards during the zillion pound redevelopment that's on the cards thus freeing up the east end for housing development.
That will undoubtedlygive the Council an excuse to vote for another expensive face lift for this troubled money pit of a theatre. Maybe when they shift the market to St. Martin's Square they can let the traders use that part of the building as storage etc.... Perhaps they could knock the whole Basildon Centre down in order to relocate to the site of the now closed Post Office and incorporate it into the 'Leisure Square' plans. They can demolish the excrescence that is Westgate too and shift the town Centre Westwards during the zillion pound redevelopment that's on the cards thus freeing up the east end for housing development. Howard Cháse
  • Score: 0

3:53pm Mon 21 Jul 14

bolshiesaf says...

As the company who run Southend Theatres do so well. In fact I have always used Cliffs and The Palace over the Queens , Towngate or Thameside Theatres even when living in London area, we should get them to run the Towngate.

I look and find very little I want to watch and to be honest the few times I have been have experienced unfriendly and abrupt staff
As the company who run Southend Theatres do so well. In fact I have always used Cliffs and The Palace over the Queens , Towngate or Thameside Theatres even when living in London area, we should get them to run the Towngate. I look and find very little I want to watch and to be honest the few times I have been have experienced unfriendly and abrupt staff bolshiesaf
  • Score: 4

9:47pm Mon 21 Jul 14

Kim Gandy says...

...oh and what was it Labour spent in their last year of office, on, wait for it,
CONSULTANTS.

That's right, £1.8bn

Dear oh dear, more pot and kettle from the increasingly deranged Labour camp.
...oh and what was it Labour spent in their last year of office, on, wait for it, CONSULTANTS. That's right, £1.8bn Dear oh dear, more pot and kettle from the increasingly deranged Labour camp. Kim Gandy
  • Score: -3

12:19am Wed 23 Jul 14

Discouraged says...

Nigel Smith should not worry about theatre, he can watch TV that his wife claimed £315 for a tv licence for one year for as an MP.
Nigel Smith should not worry about theatre, he can watch TV that his wife claimed £315 for a tv licence for one year for as an MP. Discouraged
  • Score: 0

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