White Rock Theatre discussed by councillors

COUNCILLORS last night (Thursday) voiced their opinions on the subsidy paid to the White Rock Theatre which amounts to more than half a million pounds a year.

Members of the borough council’s overview and scrutiny committee discussed a report on the theatre which is operated under a 10 year lease by HQ Theatres Limited.

Attendance figures average about 40 per cent of the total capacity over the last three years.

Councillor Phil Scott said: “As a building, the White Rock Theatre is not used as well as we would like it to be. Some shows sell out more than others, some shows are cancelled and some are poorly attended.”

He added that some people could not afford to attend shows because of the price of tickets and he would like charges to be dropped for community groups using the Sussex Hall.

Councillor Emily Westley said the management team had made a deliberate move to decrease the number of acts on the programme but ‘increase the quality’ of them.

She rejected cllr Scott’s claim that cost stopped some people going to the theatre and said the attendance figures were on a par with similar venues across the country.

“I’m happy with the performance of the management team at the moment,” she added.

Councillor Trevor Webb said: “People say to me that the programme is better than before. The theatre is better and more well regarded that it was five or six years ago.”

It would cost the council if it was to the terminate the contract with HQ Theatres Limited because there is no break clause, pointed out Councillor Rob Cooke, who said it would be ‘sacrilegious’ to have a revamped pier and empty building next to it.

“We own the building so if we didn’t have a management company running it, we would end up with a building that would have to be maintained which adds to our costs.”

Councillor Scott said leaving the venue empty would not be an option and suggested a potential use for the land in the future could be housing.

He voiced hope that the regeneration of the pier would have a beneficial effect on the White Rock Theatre.

The committee thanked head of amenities, resorts and leisure Virginia Gilbert for compiling the report.

No points for action were noted.