Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Theatr Hafren

For almost three decades, Theatr Hafren in Newtown, Montgomeryshire has been providing eclectic cultural experiences to audiences drawn from Mid Wales and further afield. While I've always thought the theatre to be an ugly building from outside, as is the college to which it is attached, the attractive and much valued programme of entertainment it delivers is anything but ugly. It is exceptionally good. To me it is unthinkable that it should come to an end.

Last Tuesday, Powys County County Council's Head of Recreation, Culture and Countryside Services wrote to all Executive Board Members and Councillors from Montgomeryshire to inform them that there is the possibility that the Theatre may fail its annual insurance inspection later this month. Such a failure would, in effect, lead to the cessation of most public performances. His letter went on to emphasise that whatever the outcome of the insurance inspection, the Theatre will need significant investment over the next year or so. The feeling that I take from the letter is not that the insurance inspection is likely to fail - but that it may fail, and that Councillors should be made aware of the risk before it happens.

Reason this interested me enough to visit Theatr Hafren this afternoon is that the Newtown 5 ( Local County Councillors) have involved me in their efforts to persuade their fellow councillors to reinvest in the town all or part of a large capital receipt arising from the recent sale of the Newtown Smithfield to Tesco Developments (perhaps as much as eight million pounds). My advice has been that the most likely route to success is to press for investment that would fall as a cost on the County Council in any case. Restoration of the town's Market Hall is one such scheme. In my opinion, investment in Theatr Hafren would be another. And it would have the added incentive of serving a much wider catchment than just Newtown, which should find favour with other councillors. This issue is likely to feature strongly when the Newtown 5 present their own ideas to another public meeting on Sept 3rd. I suppose there is a possibility that the theatre could be closed by then.


Anonymous said...

There's a wider issue here. Many of the Theatres and Arts Centres built in the sixties and seventies are drawing to the end of their useful lives.

Like most public buildings of that period they were poorly built in the (not unreasonable) belief that "something is better than nothing".

The problem is that at the very time they need renewal councils are cash-strapped and lottery money is being devoured by the London 2012 willy-waving festival.

It's a real conundrum. Theatr Gwynedd is already dark and at least half a dozen others need major investment.

Anonymous said...

I see that "MP" Opik is jumping on this bandwagon. Why doesn't someone just ask him when he last visited Theatr Hafren? I think you'll find he hasn't been anywhere near us for a LONG LONG time.......