The Waterside Theatre is the subject of several letters this week.
WE PAY FOR THEATRE
Having booked and paid for two tickets for my wife and I to see The Jersey Boys at the Waterside Theatre in September I considered it relatively good value at the time compared to London theatre prices.
I have now realised that maybe it’s not such good value for local rate payers because they have had to fund via the rates the circa £47,000,000 spent by AVDC to build the Waterside Theatre. They would claim the funding was from money at hand, yes the money they received from selling off the community’s council houses on the cheap, the local taxpayers’ houses, the community’s assets.
Together with also having to fund the ongoing additional total annual revenue commitment circa £597,600 per annum (£11,492 a week) also being paid out by AVDC in subsidies to the operator the Ambassador Theatre Group ( whose profits soared by 164% in 2011) including for the business rates, window cleaning, building insurance, special maintenance, TUPE obligations etc, all as contracted and noted in the relevant AVDC 2011 minutes.
They claim this is a little less than the cost of running the previous venue the Aylesbury Civic Centre that they demolished and covered over to make a car park.
However, both figures don’t compare well to the costs encountered by other councils running similar venues elsewhere, so the back slapping is null and void and meaningless.
As to the adjacent open car park reminiscent of the covered over bomb sites that sprung up in London after the war, our councillors who receive free parking have decided to increase the charges, which will certainly not encourage more visitors to the theatre, which in turn may result in the theatre operator asking for more running subsidies, but that’s alright because the money will come from the increased car parking charges, paid for by who?
You the rate payers.
You couldn’t make it up could you.
However, we will not let all this spoil our enjoyment of the music of the Jersey Boys on the night Oh What a Night I will just have to Walk Like a Man and tell my wife that Big Girls Don’t Cry .
THEATRE IS AN ASSET
My heart sank when I read about AVDC wanting to reduce their subsidy to the Waterside Theatre.
Whilst I can understand they need to save money and the theatre should by now be getting enough income to reduce their subsidy, I hope this will not lead to a reduction in the number and quality of shows, concerts etc they provide for the town and surrounding areas.
I think the problem lies in the lack of big names and shows which we can see touring in other parts of the county and which don’t come to Aylesbury. I often find myself booking shows at Wycombe, Milton Keynes and Oxford as Aylesbury is not on their tour itinerary – for example: The Bodyguard, Shrek and Hairspray.
I am told this is down to the tour operators and the fact that our theatre capacity is 1,200 whereas some of the others are 1,800 – no excuse in my eyes!
We also seem to have a lot of ‘repeat’ visits, eg Priscilla and Thriller.
I am sure they are not as well attended second time round.
There are also very few children’s productions in the holidays – this year we had one – Basil Brush – who I am sure none of my six grandchildren will even have heard of!
I did suggest at one time that the theatre people meet with members of AVDC and a group of theatre goers from the area and find out what people want to see there.
It is important that the prices do not escalate as people will not pay West End prices for local theatres – and should not be expected to.
The theatre is the best thing to happen to Aylesbury in the last five years, let’s ensure it stays that way and give the locals what they want and continue to provide a mixture of productions for all ages.
MAKE IT WORK
The Ambassador Theatre Group is supposedly one of the largest theatre management groups in the country, so why don’t they promote the Waterside Theatre as much as their venues in Oxford and Milton Keynes?
Productions at these venues are always being advertised, but very rarely do we see Waterside mentioned in the entertainment sections of weekend papers.
I appreciate that Aylesbury sits midway between Oxford and Milton Keynes, and I guess they just don’t want to take bums off the seats of their well established ATG venues, but they are surely not fulfilling their agreement to manage Waterside to it’s full potential.
I am guessing that they want to concentrate on their larger capacity theatres, Oxford 1,800, Milton Keynes 1,400 with Waterside bringing up the rear with 1,200 seats (increasing to 1,800 for standing audiences).
I wonder whether the consequences of a less capacity main auditorium, were taken into consideration when the building was designed and please don’t mention the ‘small space’ I am talking about the main auditorium in this instance.
We support Waterside 100%, and have seen many productions there since its inception in 2010, but very few have been a ‘sell out’, and many less than half full.
It must be soul destroying for performers (and audiences) to see rows of empty seats. Surely a company with ATG’s expertise should realise that if they give the public what they want they will attend in droves, and there have been a few productions at Waterside where this has, indeed, been proved.
So, if this is the situation based on an existing AVDC subsidy of £600,000 (in effect, paid for by the public) I dread to think what will happen if the subsidy is reduced to £350,000 as is proposed.
We will really get the dregs of entertainment then.
By the way, I have just noticed that Jools Holland, who played at the Civic Centre for years to sell out audiences, is now performing at Oxford Theatre in November.
A standing audience easily match Oxford’s 1,800 capacity, so why not Waterside?
The theatre is a terrific venue, and a great asset to the town, but the view of a vast number of people is that it is not being used to it’s full potential.
Those concerned should take appropriate action to ensure Waterside’s long term success, otherwise I fear that, regrettably, in a few years time, it may be ‘mothballed’.
KILLING THE TOWN
I noticed this week that AVDC implemented the ridiculous parking increases.
Prices for parking in Aylesbury were already very high, but a 50% increase from £1 to £1.50 is nuts!
Aqua Vale is seeing a 100% increase!
Imagine if local businesses increased their prices by 50% or 100%, they would go out of business within weeks.
Plus they are scrapping the evening rate of £1 that was payable after 18.30 to 8am and charging full rates till 9pm.
This will kill business for local restaurants and coffee shops.
This will also affect people who work in these establishments who are paid minimum wage and cannot rely on bus services.
All this because AVDC can’t manage its finances!
Do the AVDC not understand that they are pricing Aylesbury out of the market?
AVDC already killed the high street which now comprises of betting and charity shops because of stupid aggressive parking enforcement.
Businesses in Aylesbury will now see a drop in footfall, I suspect many will pull out of Aylesbury when they have fewer customers.
AVDC needs to understand that consumers are put off by these obscene charges.
If you take into account the cost of enforcement and of maintaining the equipment in Aylesbury’s car parks, it would be more economic to make all Aylesbury car parks free for four hours parking and ask the local retailers if they will fund the lost income.
When split amongst local shops it would be peanuts compared to the increased business they would get, AVDC could work with the local chamber of commerce to make this happen.
The report carried out by Mary Portas clearly established that councils should reduce parking charges.
I am fed up with the excuses reported in the Bucks Herald.
The suggestion that a 50 and 100% increase is minimum is a joke.
The fact that they were last increased in 2007 is irrelevant because they were already too high.
Seriously, the AVDC needs to scrap these charges completely rather than increase them.
IT’S NOT THE ANSWER
What truths are often being ignored about the migrant situation at Calais?
Most of the precious men, women and children stranded in “the jungle” at the French port are from countries where conflict and persecution are rife; Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan.
There are twenty million refugees world-wide and the countries to which they have fled are struggling to cope.
In Europe, Germany and Sweden shelter significant numbers.
We and France have accepted comparatively few.
The erection of ever-higher security fences is not an answer.
Calais and the crisis in the Mediterranean need to be tackled as part of an EU-wide refugee approach, including via managed resettlements.
John M Cornwall, Rev Tim Edworthy, Minster at Well Street United Church, Buckingham Erik Undritz, Church Administrator
Thanks to readers’ generosity, Rennie Grove’s latest fundraising appeal – to fund batteries to power syringe pumps - has raised £23,000 to date.
A syringe pump can mean the difference between keeping a patient at home with their family during their final days and an unnecessary admission into hospital.
During the last weeks of a patient’s life they may become very sick and no longer able to swallow tablets, so our Hospice at Home nurses use battery-operated syringe pumps to inject pain-relief and other medications in measured doses.
We recently had to update our syringe pumps, following guidelines from the National Patient Safety Authority (NPSA).
These state that batteries must be replaced when they reach 40% capacity, which in most cases means new batteries are needed every two days.
As many of our patients need a syringe pump for at least five to ten days – and sometimes for several months – this presented us with an additional funding challenge.
We’re very grateful to everyone who responded to our appeal.
Director of fundraising and marketing, Rennie Grove Hospice Care
LETTERS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED SEPTEMBER 2