Council looking to invest more than £1 million in Wellingborough theatre

The Castle theatre in Wellingborough
The Castle theatre in Wellingborough

Councillors will be asked to recommend investing more than £1 million in the town’s theatre.

Since taking over the management of The Castle when it closed in June 2016, Wellingborough Council has taken steps to ensure that it continues to function as a theatre as well as a space for use by local groups.

It is likely to continue in this format until the contract for a new operator is awarded.

If the tender process is successful, the new contract will take effect from January 2019.

A report looking at the past year for The Castle as well as looking ahead will be discussed by the council’s resources committee tomorrow (Wednesday).

The report says the theatre has hosted 66 shows in the past year, selling 52,000 tickets across these shows.

Best-selling shows in the main auditorium include Pasha Kovalev - Let’s Dance The Night Away, Joel Dommett, The River of Jazz (community group show by Earls Barton Music) and Russell Kane: Right Man, Wrong Age.

For the studio, best-selling shows include The Nutcracker, Madame Butterfly and Cash on Delivery (a community group production by Wellingborough Technical Players).

Staff have been working hard to rebuild relationships with community groups that used the venue before it closed and more community productions are planned in the near future.

There are currently 20 staff working at the theatre.

Of these, seven are on fixed term contracts, the manager is working on a contract basis part-time and the council’s events officer has been seconded to the theatre to assist with management.

The remainder are on casual contracts.

The report says that before the theatre re-opened, a number of actions were taken to ensure that the building and its contents were health and safety compliant.

Risk assessments and surveys were carried out to ensure all reasonable steps had been taken to make the building safe for both staff and customers.

The report also states: “In addition, a further survey has been undertaken to ascertain what essential building and plant repairs are required to lengthen the life of the building.

“Alongside this, a specialist report on theatre-specific issues (sound, lighting, stage etc) has been carried out.

“A capital bid is attached.

“Phase one covers all essential work to the fabric of the building which the council will be able to commence before the contract is let.

“Phase two focuses on essential fixtures, fittings or specialist content which will need to be undertaken by the council in consultation with the new operator.

“Further improvements could also be programmed (identified as phase three in the bid), but would require a business case; at this stage the recommendation is simply to make the venue fit for purpose.

“The total bid amounts to £1.5 million for phases one to three; on this occasion members are being asked to consider phases one and two only, amounting to £1,050,000.”

At the meeting, councillors will be asked to recommend that a sum of £1,050,000 be included in the capital programme to cover all works identified in phases one and two of the capital bid as essential for the effective operation of the theatre and longevity of the building.

They will also be asked to recommend that a sum of £25,000 which would span two financial years (2018/19 and 2019/20) is included in the revenue budget to enable the council to work with the new operator to complete redecoration and upgrade flooring.

The meeting starts at 7pm tomorrow at Swanspool House in Wellingborough.