LAST week the community led campaign to save the Alexandra Theatre was able to announce it had received £36k of development funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund.
It was perhaps fitting that at the same time, one of the key campaigners was speaking at the Theatres Trust annual national conference about the future of theatre in the UK.
South Devon Alliance’s Richard Daws, one of the few Teignbridge councillors who had objected to the proposed demolition of the grade 2 listed theatre, was invited to the annual conference to speak about his experience running live entertainment venues.
Throughout the campaign, South Devon Alliance have objected to TDC plans to demolish the theatre. They are also unique amongst the 47 councillors as three of them have long careers in the entertainment sector.
Cllr Janet Bradford is a Dartington College of Arts graduate who is best known locally for setting up and running Stagecoach in Newton Abbot, Exeter and Torbay, thereby introducing thousands of local children to the stage.
Former journalist at the Times Cllr Liam Mullone is a stand-up comedian, writer and comedy promoter.
As well as operating the nationally recognised Komedia venues, Cllr Daws runs a Theatre, TV and Radio production company.
After engaging the Theatres Trust earlier in the year to offer its opinions in the plans to demolish the Alex, Cllr Daws was asked along to the Theatres Trust conference. He spoke at ‘The Business of Theatre’ session, sharing his experiences renovating a derelict grade 2 listed cinema and successfully converting in Komedia Bath a now flourishing community owned venue.
‘It is both telling and disappointing, that the main industry body thought enough of my experience to ask me to speak on sustaining venues through community ownership, when the very council I am elected to serve upon has consistently ignored my offers of help and more recently excluded me from meetings’.
‘There is a pattern of behaviour from TDC that is very concerning. ‘However, with the campaign engaging with the local creative sector we have been able to set up a Community Benefit Society (AlexadraTheatre.org) and we already have had significant success with national bodies in the form of grants and support.
We have the financial backing of Architectural Heritage Fund and are discussions with Coops UK, Crowdfunder and Dave Boyle, the UK’s leading expert in community ownership. A year ago the Alex appeared doomed.
We now have a fighting chance.’
The Theatres Trust event at the Hammersmith Lyric was opened by a South West luminary. Totnes based Transition Network Founder, Rob Hopkins hosted an inspirational key note address, engaging the audience with time travel and encouraging them to imagine what could be achieved in five years’ time. It now seems that the #savethealex campaign can share that dream.