The news that a new theatre complex is
being considered for the riverside development is
excellent news and one that we, at Derby New
Theatre, fully supports. Derby needs and deserves
this sort of development, so that we can all have
access to the range and quality of professional
theatre enjoyed by similar cities.
It is, however, important to point out that this
need is not just for the professional theatre.
Derby has a very rich mixture of non-professional
theatre, not only in terms of the size of its
participants and audience but also the quality
and scope of its work.
Many companies are engaged in delivering the sort
of productions which, for economic reasons, are
not possible within the professional theatre.
But the sad fact is that there are a number of
local companies, who have gained national and
international acclaim, that are now struggling to
build a firm base within the city.
The reason for this is the lack of suitable
facilities within the city, particularly since
the recent decision by the Derby Playhouse to
reduce the number of non-professional companies
using the main stage.
Our research clearly shows that Derby is unique
among major cities in not having a dedicated
building for the use of non-professional theatre.
We will press for any new development to include
such a facility, so audiences can continue to
enjoy all aspects of theatre. Keith
Briars, Chair, Derby New Theatre
The Derby Playhouse is to carry out £600,000 of
improvements to its auditorium and backstage
after being awarded the funding by the Arts
Council. (Source: Derby Evening Telegraph, Apr/06)
More than half the staff at the Derby Playhouse
are to lose their jobs following refurbishment.
The theatre is making 36 employees redundant from
its main staff and the Playhouse's catering
subsidiary. Some staff could be re-employed when
the theatre's refurbishment is completed, but
fewer people overall would be needed. (Source: BBC News, Jun/06)
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Derby New Theatre organisation has been
formed because the city council has backed plans by the
Derby Playhouse to force non-professional (amateur)
theatre companies into an unworkable, unviable and
unsustainable summertime festival season that has seen
eight groups leave in search for another stage to perform
on. Unfortunately Derby is poorly lacking in stage
provision which can be seen in the stats section of the
Nuggets of interesting
information such as the most successful non-pro G&S
company in the World comes from Derby and is currently
'making-do' in the Darwin Suite. The Assembly Rooms is
useless as a theatre (no flying tower or wings) or a
concert hall (too small for decent bands and groups to
bother), non-pro theatre generates £750,000 income per
annum in Derbyshire performing to 100,000 people
(allegedly QUAD will generate this many patrons - can you
see that?), etc, etc...
Particular problems of contention are that the Playhouse
receives a grant from the council for community work
which they are passing off as being covered by the
community play, however this grant was initially given
when the theatre was built to give provision for the
non-pro theatre companies of the city to be able to
perform. Also it is discouraging that several councillors
sit on the board of the Playhouse but the pleas of these
companies are never addressed by these councillors.
Originally the 'Summertime Amateur Festival' arrangement
was for an 18 month trial period. Since then the
companies have had no contact with the theatre. Letters
remain unanswered which is bizarre. In 2003, the theatre
was instructed to carry out an independent report into
the finance and organisation of the theatre. The results
were published in a glossy in-house catalogue lauding the
theatre as a success, however, the actual report has
never been seen which makes us very suspicious about its
Derby Gilbert & Sullivan Co. (DGSC) are four times
winners of the International G&S Festival and regular
ambassadors of our city when performing in the USA and
Canada. They ended a 22 year relationship with Derby
Playhouse after they lost £9,000 in 2003 when forced to
perform in August by the new Playhouse management team.
When pleas to the management and council for a more
workable date for 2004 fell on deaf ears, DGSC were
forced to make the sad decision to move away from the
Playhouse (our only proper theatre in the city). All the
other venues were considered including venues in
Eventually the company decided to 'make do' in the Darwin
Suite which included having to pay the venue to make
modifications to the hall and hire in tiered seating to
give the venue a more theatrical feel. In 2004 the
company managed to break even compared to the £9,000
loss in the previous year, however the limitations of the
venue mean that using the Darwin suite has a finite life.
Only 3 or 4 of the shows performed by this company can be
performed on a single set. The majority requiring at
least one set change which is impossible in the Darwin
Good Companions (GCs) who regularly sell out their
performances were also forced out of the Playhouse and
chose to move to the Assembly Rooms Grand Hall which, as
already stated, is a big risk due to the hire cost of the
venue and the fact that it has limitations similar to
Darwin Suite - it is difficult to change sets during
production and there is no fly tower or wing space. GCs
have actually made a success of its ventures in the
Assembly Rooms so far which is good but they are still
performing in an inadequate venue.
Flying High - Gang Show - it was impossible for this
company to even try a summertime slot as the company is
staffed by teachers and the players are children. This
annually successful production would have been unworkable
in the summer months with staff and children being on
Derby Shakespeare Theatre Co (DSTC) have been performing
in the Playhouse since it opened and were forced out of
the theatre when the new summertime slot was introduced.
I also believe that it was made clear to the company that
the Playhouse production staff intended to put on a
Shakespeare piece and therefore the presence of an
amateur Shakespeare theatre company was unwelcome! DSTC
have yet to find a permanent home. They have tried many
of the venues available throughout the city so far.
Present Company/New Opera also found it impossible to use
a summertime date and have been inventive in discovering
new venue opportunities including a dinner and theatre
arrangement at the Pride Park Stadium!
claims that Derby Playhouse could lose more than
£500,000 a year if a 12-screen cinema goes ahead.
Westfield, the company behind the Eagle Centre
redevelopment, wants to build the multiplex beside the
theatre. But an independent study shows that putting the
two venues side-by-side could mean the Playhouse becomes
less popular with audiences.
The Playhouse wants Westfield to pay them £250,000 per
year to support it for five years after the cinema is
built. The theatre commissioned London-based ABL
Consultancy to do the study which said, "The cinema
will cause the net loss of between £180,000 and
£610,000 per year of income to the Playhouse, making
failure and closure inevitable."
Derby City Council leader Chris Williamson said: "It
sounds like complete hogwash to me. I think a cinema in
the city centre would enhance the location and, in all
probability, increase the marketing opportunities of the
Playhouse." Playhouse chief executive Karen Hebden
confirmed that the Playhouse was considering moving to a
750-seat auditorium and studio theatre complex on the
north bank of the River Derwent.
The Playhouse receives about £400,000 of funding from
the city council each year and has an income of over £3m
a year. Do other shops and businesses in the centre
receive funding from the taxpayer? Surely, the playhouse
is a business and should promote and fund itself.
Derby Playhouse has reported its takings are
20% less since work began on the Eagle Centre extension.
Concerns were first raised about the theatre when work
began on the extension of the shopping centre, causing
car parking and access problems. The theatre had an
income of about £3.2m in 2005 but said that it had noted
a recent reduction in business.
The Derby Playhouse Supporters' Group co-chairman, Bish
Wojcik, said, "The theatre's at risk because
building work is causing major problems for many people
trying to attend. Some aren't coming back and some are
staying away altogether because they've heard from other
people that there's traffic disruption." (Source: Derby Evening Telegraph, Feb/06)