Kettering's Lighthouse Theatre named county's best arts venue - with just under three weeks until closure

A petition to save the complex now has almost 15,000 signatures
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An under-threat Kettering theatre has been named as Northamptonshire’s best – with just weeks until its doors may close for good.

The Lighthouse Theatre will shut on July 3 unless someone saves the KLV complex, which also includes Kettering Conference Centre, a gym and a sports arena, at the last minute.

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Campaigners say it’s not too late to keep the much-loved venue open and have urged North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) or a management company to step in.

The Lighthouse Theatre, KetteringThe Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering
The Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering

And this week the importance of the site was further recognised after the Lighthouse Theatre was crowned Northamptonshire’s best theatre/arts venue in the 2023 Muddy Stilettos Awards.

Mike Balderson, who works at the complex and set up a petition to save it, which now has almost 15,000 signatures, said: “It’s the best theatre or arts venue in the county but with just three weeks to go they’re still looking to close it.

"It just seems to be madness.”

NNC held talks with community members from the KLV Support Group at the end of May and the council is due to release a further update about the situation this week.

The Lighthouse Theatre, KetteringThe Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering
The Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering
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But Mike said time is running out and he is frustrated that nobody seems to be any closer – at least publicly – to saving the venue.

He said: "The burning light we had at the end of the tunnel seems to be dimming down and we almost can’t see it any more.

"We are hearing nothing. Nobody is telling us anything and nobody in the building knows anything.

"It’s not even mixed messages – it’s no messages.”

The Lighthouse Theatre, KetteringThe Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering
The Lighthouse Theatre, Kettering

NNC leases KLV from BQ Farms, paying a £1 annual peppercorn rent, an arrangement which was inherited from their predecessor authority, Kettering Borough Council. The council has a contractual arrangement with Phoenix Leisure, which further sublet KLV to Compass Group Services, which made the closure decision. They said costs had increased significantly and that it was no longer financially viable.

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At a vocal public meeting on May 19, despite showing sympathy to KLV supporters and vowing to find a solution, NNC leader Cllr Jason Smithers said he could not promise any extra money to bail out the business on top of the £337,000 a year granted for indoor sports courts and the Lighthouse Theatre.

It had originally been planned that the site would close on May 31 but it was pushed back until July 3 to give more time for alternative solutions to be found.

Kettering comedian James Acaster, who had been due to host sell-out gigs at the Lighthouse Theatre this summer, also backed calls to save the venue.

Those who use the site and opposition councillors also made their feelings known at a fiery emergency Kettering Town Council meeting last week.

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NNC’s Cllr Anne Lee (Lab, Windmill) asked Cllr Lloyd Bunday (Con, Ise) to look her in the eye and tell her what he had done to to convince the other members of NNC’s executive that KLV is hugely important.