Reprise for theatre after council leases playhouse to arts group
A Somerset theatre which closed after funding cuts is set to reopen after the council handed the lease to a community group.
Taunton's Brewhouse Theatre went into administration with the loss of more than 50 jobs in February, describing its financial position as "untenable".
The flagship theatre had employed 20 full-time staff, 35 part-time, and was also supported by a team of 20 volunteers.
Taunton Deane Borough Council, which owns the theatre's freehold, acquired the lease and building contents in October from administrators.
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The council's executive has now agreed to lease the playhouse to the Taunton Theatre Association (TTA), an umbrella group for arts and cultural groups in the town.
Councillor Norman Cavill, spokesman for economic development and the arts, said the venue was "vitally important" to a "thriving arts and cultural scene for our community" both for visitors and people relocating.
"When a company chooses a location, one of the important items is that their employees can enjoy quality of life – and that includes what they can do in their leisure time," he added.
"Taunton Theatre Association has worked extremely hard and the group is to be congratulated for what it has achieved so far. We look forward greatly to working with them in future to create a viable and sustainable future."
The theatre, which is currently staging a hugely successful Taunton School production of Cats, is seen as a vital part of the county town's cultural life.
Ironically, after its collapse, the 352-seat venue scooped an accolade at the Exeter College Skills Awards.
It was nominated for the award on the strength of its relationship with the college and two students undertaking a technical theatre apprenticeship course.
The council yesterday said it had delayed the decision to award a lease until it was satisfied with TTA's business plan.
Arts consultants employed by the council have worked with TTA to ensure its plan will deliver a financially sustainable future and a varied programme with amateur and professional productions and working with schools and colleges.
The authority, which has historically awarded annual grant funding to the theatre, has set aside £152,000 in the current financial year with the 2014-15 figure yet to be set.
Val Hammond, from TTA, said the news was "absolutely great".
She added: "I'm also slightly daunted... now we've really got a mountain to climb because there is a lot to do. But it will be very exciting work."