Funding 'assured' for £1m theatre upgrade

Saturday 2nd October 2021 3:00 pm
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THE future of the 151-year-old Abergavenny Borough Theatre has been secured after county councillors agreed to underwrite any shortfall in a £1m-plus upgrade.

Vital refurbishment work on the venue, which once hosted The Beatles, was orginally priced at £400,000, but costs have ballooned by more than £600,000, putting the rest of the project at risk.

The work, which includes replacing old seating, updating heating and air conditioning, improving the foyer, providing more toilets, moving the box office and refreshing the backstage area and dressing rooms, will now be completed after Monmouthshire councillors said they would pick up the tab for any shortfall.

Further funding has been identified, and discussions are ongoing with Abergavenny Town Council about potential support towards the remaining shortfall of £278,943 .

Councillors unanimously agreed that the county council would underwrite any remaining shortfall at a full council meeting on Thursday, September 23.

Cllr Lisa Dymock (Welsh Con, The Elms, Magor), cabinet member for community wellbeing and social justice, said the refurbishment would see “a beautiful theatre brought up-to-date”, making it more accessible and improving the experience for theatre-goers as well as

performers.

“The theatre has a huge value to the county and we aspire to make Abergavenny the cultural arts centre,” she said.

Council Labour group leader Cllr Dimitri Batrouni (Welsh Lab, St Christopher’s, Chepstow), questioned the rise in costs for the project.

“I support the money towards Abergavenny Borough Theatre,” he said. “But I want to understand how could officers and the cabinet member get the financial costs so wrong?”

Cllr Dymock said the original plan included a phased scheme, but she said it did not capture all of the work required.

“We can’t just do a superficial facelift,” she said. “It’s best to do an overhaul and deliver something of quality.”

Other issues such as the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and Suez Canal blockages have also been blamed for the increase in costs.

Abergavenny member Cllr Sheila Woodhouse said the refurbishment was “vitally important” for the venue, which was built in 1870 as part of the Grade II-listed town hall, and hosted The Beatles in 1963.

Cllr Martyn Groucutt (Welsh Lab, Lansdown), chairman of Abergavenny Town Council’s policy and resources committee, said the request for funding would be considered “very carefully”, but warned that the town council is “not a cash cow”.

A request for a contribution of £20,000 per year for an initial period of five years is being considered by the town council.

Monmouthshire Council has agreed to meet any remaining shortfall by loan funding or through capital receipts.

The theatre is the base for Abergavenny Amateur Operatic & Dramatic Society, and regularly attracts stars such as comedians Rhod Gilbert, Andy Parsons and Mark

Steel.

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