Jobs threat as Arc to close as commercial theatre

The Arc Theatre’s doors will close to professional shows

Wiltshire College vice-principal Bev Flanagan

First published in Trowbridge by , Senior Reporter

The Arc Theatre in Trowbridge will stop staging professional performances in January, after Wiltshire College decided to close it as a commercial theatre.

College managers said the venue, in College Road, lost £75,000 last year, had been operating in the red for several previous years, and was expected to make a £25,000 loss this year.

They added it was a situation that left them with little choice but to bring the final curtain down on the theatre.

All five members of staff are now facing redundancy, although it is expected the theatre will keep a technician to oversee college productions and shows staged by community groups.

The current programme of productions will be unaffected, with the final show on January 28.

All the film nights already announced will run, before a full review is undertaken of what services the theatre may be able to offer.

Bev Flanagan, the vice-principal for enterprise at Wiltshire College, said: “In recent years, the programme has been varied to try to stimulate audiences, which has included film, comedy and high end theatre productions.

“However, none of these initiatives have made a big enough impact on the bottom line, even with the grant from Wiltshire Council. In addition, this grant is not guaranteed year-on-year.

“The college is no longer able to continue to subsidise the theatre and therefore has made this difficult decision.

“The theatre will continue to support the arts community by making it available, wherever possible, to community groups.”

Wiltshire Council, which provides annual funding of £21,414, said it had no intention of stopping or reducing the support it provides.

Former Arc employee Hayley Stevens, 24, who finished working at there in June after 18 months, said: “I was lucky to get out when I could, because it was looking a bit shaky. But I really feel for those that are still there.

“It is such a shame because it is a great venue, but the trouble was that it didn’t have any footfall from people passing by and theatregoers tend to prefer going to Bath.

“Another problem was that it relied heavily on hirers as a source of income.

“The previous director, Andy Burden, did a great job and brought it back to life to some extent and the current director, Rachael Selley, was just as passionate, but it was not enough to save it.

“They really tried hard to turn it around, but no matter how much you put into it, you don’t always get something back out of it.”

Wiltshire College has said it does not anticipate hire rates for community groups – such as the Trowbridge Players and Trowbridge Amateur Operatic Society – will increase as a result of the changes.

Trowbridge Cllr Jeff Osborn said yesterday that he would use his chairmanship of the Trowbridge Area Board to look into the closure, alongside the BA14 Culture Group, which promotes the arts scene in the Trowbridge area, and the town council.

He said: “This is very much a retrograde move and the impact will be such as to render the Trowbridge area a cultural desert. I will do my utmost to lessen this impact.”

The annual Open Day at the theatre will still take place tomorrow, from 10am until 4pm.

Visitors will be given the chance to go on backstage tours and see performances by local musicians.

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