I AM sorry Delia Green is unhappy about the financial support which Hastings Borough Council gives to the White Rock but I’d like to respond to some of her comments.
It’s true that the theatre was built as a classical music venue and it doesn’t have an orchestra pit but many modern theatres don’t have such a facility either. On the occasions we need to accommodate an orchestra, we remove rows of seating which works equally well – and the acoustics are excellent.
It’s also true that the theatre does need some refurbishment and Ms Green will be pleased to know it’s about the start.
The foyers are being decorated this month and next year we will be redecorating the exterior of the building and the auditorium. HQ Theatres, which manages the White Rock for the council, is also investing in a brand new computerised box office system which will bring major improvements in speed and convenience for our customers.
In terms of the performers, we have a great range of first-rate performers, from Jools Holland to The Osmonds, from Jimmy Tarbuck to Jimmy Carr. It’s true that recently we have had fewer plays and musicals but that’s something we hope to develop in the coming years.
Last year we had very successful visits from Blood Brothers and The Woman in Black. When we have week-long runs of shows, we always include a matinee but unfortunately it’s not practical for one-night events, although we do schedule some events at earlier times to suit customers who rely on public transport.
Hastings Borough Council (HBC) supports the White Rock with £500,000 perannum. However, we are required, as part of our agreement with HBC, to provide the theatre without charge for the annual Festival of Remembrance and mayor-making and at far less than true costs for the Hastings Musical Festival and regular visits by the Hastleons, The Scouts (for their Gang Show) and Opera South East. The Sussex Hall (beneath the main auditorium) is also regularly used by local groups – again, at well below true commercial costs. Almost all theatres and arts venues are financially supported by their local councils to some extent – for example, the De La Warr Pavilion receives £933,000 (from Rother District Council and the Arts Council) and Eastbourne Borough Council supports its theatres with £744,000 per annum. HBC’s support for the White Rock represents less than £6 per year for its ratepayers but, set against that, the theatre employs more than 30 people (including part-timers) and brings visitors to the town who also spend money locally in bars, restaurants and hotels.
Last but not least, we have a thriving youth theatre which is home to young people aged eight to 18, many of whom have been working for the last two weeks on our summer project, The Wedding Singer. Being part of the White Rock Theatre gives them fun, new skills, confidence and, for some, a stepping-stone into future careers.
White Rock Theatre