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Bid for £5million Torquay theatre expansion cash this year

By Herald Express  |  Posted: June 28, 2012

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PLANS to expand backstage facilities at Torquay's Princess Theatre could take a step forward this winter.

Torbay Council is proposing to submit a bid to the Arts Council for a grant towards an extension expected to cost between £4million and £5million to enable the theatre to stage more West End and pre-West End productions.

Currently musicians in some productions, such as in Starlight Express which is returning next January, had to perform in separate temporary units, and sets are moved in out of lorry trailers as there is no storage.

The aim is to create a facility which would compete with the likes of the Theatre Royal Plymouth. While the number of seats would remain the same, the facilities for scene changes, changing rooms and sets would meet modern standards.

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The expansion plan is part of a revised arts and culture strategy being drawn up in conjunction with the Arts Council. A bid for funding is expected to be made this winter.

Cllr Dave Butt, who represents the council on the South West Regional Arts Council board, said: "Extending the theatre is our number one aim. We want to get in the big shows. The theatre is on a long lease to the Ambassador Theatre Group and the bid will be done in conjunction with them. We won't know if we could get funding until early next year and it may not happen until January 2014 and would take six months to complete."

A meeting has taken place with the Arts Council representatives in Torbay, looking initially at the Bay's plan for capital projects and smaller schemes the next three years and looking 10 years ahead.

Currently £1.75million has been identified for the region which has to be spent by March 2013.

Cllr Butt said: "We are probably looking at £200,000 to £300,000 coming Torbay's way currently. But there is a long list of projects.

"We will be setting up a small, specialist high level strategic board for Torbay involving the Arts Council and top level funders which will link in with the council's new events forum.

"In September during the Agatha Christie Festival we will have a cultural seminar day to which we will invite anybody and everybody involved in culture in Torbay. That seminar will feed into the new strategy which will not just cover the arts but museums, libraries and other culture.

"We will pull festivals and events together, as a spin off alongside the mayor's events forum. We want to attract some big festivals and look at the potential of our international links. We will be celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Hamelin twinning next year.

"It will also be a maritime year as the Royal Torbay Yacht Club and Royal Torquay Regatta are celebrating their 200th and 150th anniversaries."

There are plans for a film symposium this autumn to develop a yearly film festival.

Princess Theatre general manager Wendy Bennett said: "ATG fully supports Torbay Council's bid for Arts Council England funding as we are continually looking at ways of investing in our venues and improving the theatre going experience for our customers.

"Any opportunity to improve the facilities at the Princess Theatre would be a welcomed move, enabling us to bring the biggest touring productions and musicals to Torbay and providing a much needed boost for the area."

Among the other cultural events planned are art work on the hoardings around Torre Abbey and a major maritime themed exhibition next July/August when the abbey reopens.

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  • BayTaxpayer  |  June 30 2012, 12:29PM

    The shows themselves do not put the extra charge on the seats (for payment by debit/credit card). The operating company does. Take, for example, the current - and excellent - staging of The Sound of Music by the TOADS. Those booking by card are being told that the card charge is being levied by the TOADS, and this is simply not true. Interestingly, I'm told that the Princess Theatre does not make a charge for customers paying by cheque, which is odd because (speaking as a small business owner) it costs more to pay a cheque into the bank than it does to process a card payment.

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  • realityzone  |  June 30 2012, 8:02AM

    The Little Theatre - which is away form the tourist area, provides many shows and some serious drama and is all run by volunteers and is not subisided by the public purse. Sometimes the acting can be a bit iffy but overall I have seen some really excellent plays plays there, and there's free parking on the site. They need to be encouraged.

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  • DavidPBrooks  |  June 29 2012, 10:37PM

    Updating the Princess Theatre is a key part of the "vision" to bring the bay into the 21st century and all efforts should be made to create a facility that the bay is proud off. Get the back of house sorted first and the pressure will be on to get the front of house updated to attract the audiences the bigger shows will demand. An Arts Council grant is the third best option. (lottery no.2, private no.1) at least it would appear that no council tax payers money is going to be put in.

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  • ultrasonic999  |  June 29 2012, 2:48PM

    it can only be a good thing that the theatre is extended, so that bigger and better shows can come in, what people don't realise that it is the shows themselves not the theatre that puts on the booking fees! I go to many shows at the theatre and I have never paid a fee yet why? because I use the old fashioned thing called cash! I always find the theatre staff kind and friendly, those that moan about the price of seats should not blame the theatre itself but the shows as the theatre have no say in what the prices are, likewise the shows that are on are not booked as I understand it by the theatre but the show 'hires' the theatre and its facilities. I agree that the auditorium is looking poor at the moment but when I asked about it I was told it was caused by some fire proofing coating which went wrong and the company which did it has gone bust it cost several thousands to do and they are trying to find a soloution to it. I think that we are very lucky to have such a great theatre in the bay, bringing west end shows to Torbay is great, the Theatre Royal get £thousands in grants from lottery and arts etc which the Princess cant apply for. All those that moan about the theatre would moan more if it was closed like so many accross the country have, so if you dont like the fees use cash, or even go to the tourist info offices to book!

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  • realityzone  |  June 29 2012, 7:17AM

    I am not much into "popular" entertainment of the type that they regurgitate at the Princess, but when I have been tempted I have been put off and have not booked because of the extortionate booking fees. Its wrong to knock David Butt and the council for seeking money to upgrade this facility. Any money spent which upgrades what we offer the tourists could further help a dire economy down here, and it is unrealistic to expect the tenant Company to make such a major investment in a property they do not own. If it was announced that the Council were not interested in upgrading the facility people on here would be moaning about that.

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  • saffron1  |  June 28 2012, 4:37PM

    A very poor Theater with inadequate toilets poorly maintained and I would suggest that if money is to be spent it should be front of house first. I object to being charged a booking fee and credit card fee on top of an expensive seat charge. Some of the shows are very good but why keep trotting out the same rubbish year after year.

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  • devon_guy  |  June 28 2012, 11:08AM

    As to Devon Guy...we do have big names like Jimmy Carr coming, who is on his 'Taxman' tour! ;)" You may do, but he always comes at the same time of year, you can set your watch by it! The theatre needs a drastic make over internally. Having seats held together with gaffer tape is hardly inspiring. The FOH staff have appalling attitudes as well. You all need to go and work at the Theatre Royal for a few weeks and learn a) what a decent theatre looks like and b) what customer service is!

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  • nicold  |  June 28 2012, 10:59AM

    The priority is to tidy up the interior of the theatre, it's like something out of the Ark!...but I have to admit i do enjoy a coffee in the cafe overlooking the harbour....nice environment As to Devon Guy...we do have big names like Jimmy Carr coming, who is on his 'Taxman' tour! ;)

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  • bornintorbay  |  June 28 2012, 10:17AM

    Is this really the best Torbay can do? The theatre is rented to Live Nation who make a fortune why cant they pay for it? Why does Arts Council money have to be used to improve commercial facilities? We have no Arts Centre, limited offers for the community at large, undynamic arts staff who are stuck in that past and now! the cultural offer for hard won Arts Council cash is CHANGING ROOMS? Is this an example of Gordon Oliver being into the Arts? Is this the kind of out of touch work we will be expecting from our new Cultural Lead David Butt? (And lets not forget he is on the Arts Council Board!!) Its Arts Council Money!! For the Community!!! A really deprived community where arts can transform peoples lives! £4 million pounds of it! It is no wonder at regional meetings of Arts / Music /Cultural movers and shakers Torbay is the laughing stock and probably no wonder none of them EVER go and put Torbay on the map!!

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  • devon_guy  |  June 28 2012, 9:42AM

    Maybe then at last we'll get some decent shows there rather than the dross we are presented with on an annual basis. You don't need a diary, just look at what's on at the theatre, it's the same every year!

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