THE future of Thornton Little Theatre is safe – that’s the message from Wyre Council.
The Victoria Road East venue is undergoing a massive period of change after the Paul Nicholas School of Acting – which managed the theatre – terminated its contract.
A tightening of policy around commercial hire rates has also seen many community groups quit the site.
But council leaders have reassured residents the future of the theatre is safe – and have promised an exciting programme of events is to come.
Coun Lynne Bowen, Cabinet member with responsibility for theatres at Wyre Council, said: “Thornton Little Theatre is a jewel in Wyre’s crown and a highly valued community venue.
“We’re committed to it and invested £226,000 in 2010 to provide a new foyer, studio and kitchen facilities.
“We’ve developed a diverse programme this year that provides something for everyone to enjoy, from a variety of both amateur and professional productions, to live music and comedy events.
“We’re proud of the inclusive nature of the theatre and are committed to protecting and nurturing community groups and ensuring that it remains a community venue.”
Karen Roberts from the Paul Nicholas School of acting blamed the increased hire costs as her reason for stepping down from the management role.
Other groups including a jazz band, a zumba teacher, a karate teacher and a music school have also pulled out saying rent increases of more than 300 per cent had made their position untenable.
But Coun Bowen defended the changes.
She said: “We have not increased our charges, we are simply making sure that private businesses, who make a profit from using the council’s facilities, pay commercial rates.
“Some commercial operators have been paying significantly less than they should have which ultimately resulted in higher charges for those less able to pay.
“There are a host of costs associated with the theatre including maintenance, electricity, water, cleaning and staff which must be met by those who profit from use of the venue.
“The use of commercial rates where appropriate is essential to continue to subsidise rates for community groups and keep council tax as low as possible.”
The council is in the process of investing a further £35,000 in a modern electronic box office system for both Thornton Little Theatre and Marine Hall in Fleetwood.