Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Preston Guild Hall

Prestonian blogger River's Edge has had an outburst relating to the safe-guarding of Preston Guild Hall. Despite Preston City Council suffering one of the largest funding cuts - over £5m lost in two years - all three parties in Preston Town Hall, Labour, Liberal Democrats and the ruling Conservatives, have worked together in ensuring a budget which secures Preston's Guild Hall as a venue for music, plays and comedians.

I agree with River's Edge view that "[c]reating and enjoying theatre, music and dance are activities that can mean the difference between civilisation and dull quotidian existence." The news that future Guild Hall productions will have a greater emphasis on local productions proves that Town Hall members are dedicated to keeping local theatre groups and local technicians in guaranteed employment. There is still a guarantee of big names being signed - so the best in national figures and local productions will continue to appear side-by-side. Even the Pantomime is secured. We could have the Chuckle Brothers again! Or Paul Dannan....Oh, wait, no, no..Not after last time...

The figures are clear. The Guild Hall complex costs over £1 million to run and maintain, and the last two years has seen consecutive losses of £1 million each. The financial pressures on Preston Council and taxpayers cannot be put to one side. Preston has secured, through some very difficult choices, the continued opening of both leisure centres at Fulwood and West View, and maintained the future of the Guild Hall, whilst suffering the severe central Government cuts.

Preston's Guild Hall is more than just its Charter Theatre - the complex has room for improvements and expansions which would help our city in its aim to become "The Third City of the North West". Some expansion plans will need to be mothballed, others explored through co-operations with third parties and local enterprise. Its 'grotty' side, that which used to be Morrisons leading to the Bus Station, is as bad an advert for Preston as anything I could imagine; surely the Council or the Guild Hall management can explore ways to brighten up this section without breaking the bank?

The reality is all three parties in Preston agree that a closed Guild Hall would be infinitely worse than one cut back to help balance the books. As somebody with the threat of redundancy over my own head, I know the sinking sensation in the stomach which comes from job uncertainty, and I can think of nobody within Town Hall who wants to deliver the worst news to staff currently working within the Guild Hall. There are avenues to explore and I hope the pain today can soon be over. We still have a venue to attract tourists, and ultimately money to help rebuild the shaky economy.

It's refreshing that all three parties are getting somewhere with working within the financial realities for the city. Here's hoping continued cross-party attitudes can carry on whilst the need for such attitudes is required...

1 comment:

Michael Hall Theatre School said...

"... in Preston agree that a closed Guild Hall would be infinitely worse than one cut back to help balance the books." What does this mean? When politicians talk this way it can mean what they want it to mean. When a theatre, the Charter, is originally built with no fly tower nor enough room in the stage left wings to swing a cat, can the powers that be be trusted to get anything right?
I have just finished a week long run of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with 60 children providing the Joseph Choir. At a time when so manyhigh schools have been given "Performing Arts" status and there is a proliferation of higher education establishments offering spurious performing arts courses which will be churning out more graduates for which there are teaching posts, never mind performing jobs, real contact with professional performers has never been more needed. Keeping the Charter Theatre for amateur and children's productions is merely offsetting bad publicity by ignorant philistines who believe that weasle words will get theme out of a fix. £1 million is nothing! And they know its nothing! But it sounds big to us on normal wages. This mess could be sorted out if there was the will to do so. Apparently, there is no will to do so. Are there more votes in leisure centres than theatres, that is the question.
Michael Hall