Comment: Theatre has brought Aylesbury back into the limelight

Cllr Neil Blake, leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council
Cllr Neil Blake, leader of Aylesbury Vale District Council

Over the last couple of weeks there has been much commentary about the fee paid by Aylesbury Vale District Council to Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG) for the management of the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre.

Next month the theatre will be five-years-old and, in our discussions with ATG about the way forward, the importance of the theatre to the town and all the benefits it delivers was very much at the forefront of our minds.
ATG has done a fantastic job in attracting hundreds of thousands of people from across the Vale, and further afield, to enjoy a high quality programme of events and productions ranging from West End plays and top notch comedies to musicals and spectacular Christmas pantos. 
This has enabled AVDC to put forward a proposal that will see the management fee substantially reduced over a five-year period, an arrangement which will provide ongoing savings to the council whilst enabling ATG to continue to build audiences and deliver a first class programme of events. 
I know that some people have questioned the level of fee we are paying but when you consider that ATG took the risk of opening the first new theatre to be built in the country in many years and the fact that the total yearly cost of managing the theatre is less than the cost to run the old Civic Centre (and it has three times the number of seats), I’d venture that it’s worth every penny. 
The council’s faith in the theatre to deliver bigger benefits for the economy, as well as a sparkling entertainment venue for people from all walks of life to enjoy, has certainly paid dividends. 
Would the town have attracted new restaurants and new retailers without the theatre? 
I doubt it. 
Its opening was a defining moment for Aylesbury and when influential people, whether government ministers or potential newinvestors, meet with the district council or its partners, the theatre is a powerful weapon in the town’s armoury to sell itself as a place to be.