Agenda item

Scrutiny of the Borough Theatre Refurbishment Proposal.


Borough theatre Manager Dave Baxter presented the report and answered the members’ questions with Cath Fallon and Mark Hand.


By how much did the costs go up? Is the hike due to materials?

Some elements were value added i.e. while something needed to be done, we recognised that it would be beneficial to do other things at the same time. A Quantity Surveyor costed everything to where we thought it should be, after which we went out to market for the principal contractor. the contractor selected was the best and lowest bid. So, it was a competitive process, and in line with other projects e.g. an arts centre in West Wales that did a capital project, for which the costs doubled. It should be considered as an investment, because as well as being a resource for the local community, it is a driver for culture and opportunities for education, social cohesion, etc.

Has it been a case of profiteering?

Looking at the wider picture, and from discussions with the external architects, it doesn’t seem to have been. This situation isn’t unusual, and the contractor has agreed to hold the price to September, beyond when they had to.

A substantial financial input is required from the council. Are you confident that this won’t require more and more finance in the coming years?

Yes, we are confident, and see it as a resource for all of Monmouthshire. It’s a case of being careful with cultural resources. Looking at the postcode map of attendance for a recent show held in the castle, the audience had attended from the south of the county to the heads of the valleys. the management and direction of the theatre should be seen as a strategic asset. It’s very important for Abergavenny but it needs to be beneficial for the whole county. There are three elements of a successful arts centre: the facilities themselves (equipment and venue), the staff and their skills development (in the case of Borough, skilled staff and volunteers), and the relationship with the audience and link to the community. It is a challenge and is a question of how we can benefit the whole area: for us, it is a case of having those resources.

It is unfortunate that costs have escalated but it is vitally important that this refurbishment goes ahead. The theatre has been in use for 100 years, and it brings a lot of business into the town.

The important of the theatre to Abergavenny’s identity links to discussions about the placemaking charter – consideration of a town’s unique identity and culture is a key part of that placemaking approach. The matter also links with consideration of the future of our towns and high streets: as the member mentioned, an evening at the theatre with a meal beforehand and/or a drink afterwards could be a significant part of Abergavenny’s economy and cultural appeal.

£279k is yet to be determined. Is the forthcoming meeting with Abergavenny Town Council to discuss that shortfall?

Yes, the conversation on 15th September is to discuss the extension to the refurbishment programme and any potential support that the town council might be able to give to address that shortfall.

If the town council doesn’t come up with a solution to the shortfall, where do we go next?

We are looking at an option for loan funding through the public works board, but we do hope the town council is able to join us.

The idea of being able to remove the seats so that it could be used as one big room for different events is an interesting one. There is concern about losing the orchestra pit, though.

We have set up a task and finish group with our users to look at different configurations for the orchestra, and we will include those in discussions with the design team over the next month or so. Thanks to Cabinet Member Dymock for the support she has given, particularly in moving forward our relationship with our stakeholder and user groups. We are keen to perpetuate that, and to work closely with them. Many thanks to the staff and team throughout this time as well.

Chair’s Summary:

Several members have spoken passionately in favour of the theatre’s refurbishment, citing its historical and current importance to the town and wider area. In addition, Councillor Dymock, Cabinet Member for Community Wellbeing and Social Justice, made the following comments:

The members’ comments are greatly appreciated. Numerous members of the public have stopped me in the street asking about the theatre’s reopening. It is vital that we do so given how special it is for the town, but also for those visiting Monmouthshire. It is an amazing building and has a fantastic manager in Dave Baxter and excellent staff. Thanks to councillors Sheila Woodhouse and Tudor Thomas, who have been very supportive. We’ve organised tours for user groups to share what was uncovered in the investigation works and explain the reasons for the costs rising. We also did a Q&A with the user groups. Hopefully full council will get behind this project.


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