School in last-minute bid to save Athenaeum
A PLYMOUTH school has made a dramatic late rescue bid to save the crisis-hit Athenaeum theatre.
Lipson Community College has offered to take over the facility and keep it open for "the wider community".
Under the deal, the financially troubled Athenaeum society, which this week said it would close the theatre on July 31 should no rescue package emerge, would be allowed to continue its other functions inside the Derry's Cross building.
Negotiations are understood to be at an advanced stage and the school would like to be in control of the theatre as early as next week so it can start taking bookings.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Our heavyweight cards have FREE UV silk coating, FREE next day delivery & VAT included. Choose from 1000's of pre-designed templates or upload your own artwork. Orders dispatched within 24hrs.
Terms: Visit our site for more products: Business Cards, Compliment Slips, Letterheads, Leaflets, Postcards, Posters & much more. All items are free next day delivery. www.myprint-247.co.uk
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
A public meeting has been called for Monday at which any one interested can discuss the proposal.
The school wants to run the theatre under its role as a specialist performing arts college.
It already stages shows at its campus, working with 15 city performing arts groups.
It is understood the college can 'draw down' funds to rent the 340-seat theatre from the society for a one-year trial.
It will endeavour to recoup cash by hiring it out on a non-profit basis.
But it is confident it can reverse a trend which has seen the theatre lose revenue recently.
The school hopes to encourage groups who have stopped using the facility to return, and bring new ones in.
And it said it can live "in harmony" with Athenaeum members using the rest of the building.
If the trial works it envisages continuing with the scheme.
Matthew Oakes, Lipson Community College's assistant principal and head of performing arts, said: "Negotiations are going on with (the Athenaeum's) executive group.
"We would use experts to put a strong staffing structure in place and make sure it's meeting the needs of the wider community."
He said the college would not seek to manage the theatre on a 'cost neutral' basis.
"We are used to putting on productions," he said. "We know the system, the business, and if we can use these skills to build a community asset that's what we should do.
"We have to make sure whatever decision we make is to the benefit of our students, the college and the wider community."
And he stressed: "Whether this works or not we will strive to support the community."
The college's bid is being supported by groups including The Wranglers Theatre Company.
Secretary Alison Davis said: "The theatre's closure would affect more than 1,000 young performers, drama companies and dance festivals."
The Athenaeum society is a company and a charity.
It is understood a decline in bookings and membership, possibly as a consequence of an ageing membership, has been a concern for about a decade.
Accounts show the society made a loss every financial year from 2004 to 2008.
But the society is planning to carry on as usual and intends to be in existence for its bicentenary in 2012.
A representative of one city performing arts group said: "We don't want to jeopardise the Athenaeum society, but to keep the place alive and hopefully increase their membership."
Athenaeum spokesman Philip Smith said: "The Athenaeum is open to negotiate with whoever."
He said that "process" would "not be ending in the foreseeable future".
The public meeting, organised by the Theatre Forum, is at Lipson Community College on Monday, March 9, 7pm.