Director defends White Rock Theatre funding

Howard Barnes
Howard Barnes

AUDIENCES will flock to a re-booted White Rock Theatre poised to become the ‘jewel in the crown’ of 1066 Country, according to the venue’s new leader.

HQ Theatres, the company who manage the seafront building on behalf of the borough council, announced the venue’s new theatre director this week.

And 52-year-old Howard Barnes is planning a programme of shows tailored to Hastings, designed to propel the theatre away from the danger-zone of dwindling audiences and a drop in quality entertainment.

Speaking to the Observer, the theatre veteran, who ran the De La Warr Pavilion from 1993 to 1995, also said the venue provided social, economic and community value in exchange for the controversial £500,000 lump sum it receives each year from the council.

“We plan to put the White Rock back on the map. This venue really could be the jewel in the crown down here,” he said.

In December, the Observer reported how residents polled by the council named the White Rock subsidy as one of their top five priorities to cut.

HQ Theatres escaped a funding drop because of a ten-year contract already in place.

“Theatres have got as much of a place in society as leisure centres and parks and open spaces,” said Mr Barnes.

“As well as the economic benefits we bring, there’s also a community value.

“A town like Hastings deserves a place where community groups, like amateur dramatics or the scouts, can meet and gather.

“It gives a town a bit of civic and local pride.”

The new programme will be decided this September.