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Theatres Trust
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 PlayhouseDerby 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 site www.derbynewtheatre.co.uk

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 true content.

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 Nottingham!!!

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 Suite.

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 summer holidays.

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!

A report 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)

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