168 seat theatre part 2
Of course we could get in more people if we reduced the size of the stage. But the stage is the minimum size (not the maximum) recommended by the Arts Committee (on the instruction of the Council). We could have a man playing the spoons standing at the side of the stage instead of having musicians. We could also parachute in the audience, thereby doing away with the need for walkways and as for ‘actors’….…. who needs them anyway?! They only clutter up the stage.
The Council has agreed to pay the Developer £5,000 a week for 13 weeks for the use of this hall. The Council did not stipulate which weeks of the year these would be. This leaves the Concert Promoters and Arts Providers at the mercy of the Developer in their allocation.
Whenever I pointed out, to the Councillors, that the Concert Promoters and Arts Providers may not be able to use the theatre unless there were enough seats to cover their costs and that the ratepayers may end up paying £5,000 a week for this hall/theatre to sit empty a Councillor (whom I will not name) stood up and suggested that the Art Providers were preparing the ground for their future failure to attract audiences to their shows. Whenever Councillor Montgomery stood up to make his comments, which backed my proposal, he was heckled by his own party colleague and told to ‘Sit down John you’re boring me!’ Councillor Fitzsimons proceeded to give a history lesson of his support for a theatre in North Down but refused to support my proposal that guaranteed one. The final Councillor to speak on the theatre accused me of inventing a red herring and stated that what was on offer was ‘good enough’ for the Arts Providers.
It appears that the theatre aspect of the Queens Parade is unimportant to the Councillors. I have heard it said by several Councillors’ that there is “no market for a theatre North Down” and that it was a waste of time to spend money on a proper theatre as few would attend. By sheer coincidence I was recently speaking to Kelly Brown who is the Chairperson of the New Lyric Operatic Society (and coincidentally one of the best singers from Northern Ireland that I have ever heard.) and she was able to tell me that the hugely successful “Copacabana” production, which The New Lyric had staged in Belfast, had done a ticket survey and could report that over 40% of the audience were from this Borough. This adds much weight to the argument that if you provide a good theatre with a good production you will get the people of North Down to come along. The Bangor Operatic Society’s version of “Annie Get Your Gun” played for a full week to packed audiences. Each night with over 350 people attending!
Our Arts Providers have struggled for 15 years to keep this Borough alive to the theatre. With productions in school, church and Council halls and should be lauded for their tenacity and determination in keeping the theatre alive in North Down, against all odds. Instead they are ridiculed, belittled and offered crumbs from the table.
The only sliver of light in this debacle is that the Developers have said that the hall will take 400 people. I believe that there is no way, unless they builds a real version of Dr. Who’s Tardis, that they will ever get 400 theatre seats with a stage and orchestra area into the space that they have allocated. Now it is up to them to prove that I was wrong and that they have not been over egging the pudding. The worst part of this whole debacle is that a clear signal has been sent to the Developers that the theatre is ‘not important’ to the Council so those who want to see a theatre in North Down have a huge task in front of them to try to persuade the Developers to deliver what is needed for this Borough.
During the meeting I challenged Councillor Stephen Farry to hold an open public meeting to discuss the theatre aspect of the Queens Parade Development. He accepted this challenge, after the meeting, and should he and I get elected again I will hold him to his word