Sunday, 16 December 2018

'Don't build an arts centre - enlarge the Kenton'

A NEW arts centre in Henley would have an impact on the Kenton Theatre, says its chairman of trustees.

A NEW arts centre in Henley would have an impact on the Kenton Theatre, says its chairman of trustees.

Ed Simons was responding to the Henley Standard?s report last week on the Mayor?s vision for a venue with up to 600 seats.

Martin Akehurst said it could be used by professional and amateur theatre groups, for concerts and school events and to host large exhibitions. He said he would be ?mortified? if the Kenton in New Street was affected.

Mr Simons said: ?If there was a new 600-seater venue then it would undoubtedly have an effect on the theatre because you would have somebody else bidding for professional shows against the Kenton and why do that??

He suggested building a second auditorium next to the theatre on land that it currently uses for storage.

Mr Simons said: ?It would be relatively straightforward to build a second auditorium, thus saving the council hundreds of thousands, if not millions of pounds, in terms of having to find new land.

?It could then come under the auspices of the existing Kenton Theatre management which, as Martin said in the article, is recognised as extremely good and very successful.

?What the Kenton does is enjoy being a very good fairy godmother and we could be Martin?s fairy godmother and provide the land to create a new venue alongside the existing one so the Mayor?s dream comes true.?

Susan Edwards, chairwoman of Henley Choral Society, said she thought a new arts centre was a ?superb? idea, if not new.

She said: ?We?re a large choral society with a waiting list. People are desperate to sing with us but we don?t have a venue in Henley where we can have a capacity audience because we sell out, although it is a great problem to have.

?We do use Reading Concert Hall for big concerts but they are very expensive to put on so it would be marvellous if we had somewhere in Henley.

?It?s hard work putting up the staging at St Mary?s Church and taking it down again. If we had a concert hall with a built-in stage it would make life easier. ?I would think it would be possible to raise the funding but it would take a lot of hard work and applications for grants.

?My concern would be sustainability. There?s an ongoing cost and who would pick that up? Possibly the organisations would be charged for using it.

?An arts centre is a superb idea and would be wonderful but it would need some planning as to how it would be sustainable.?

Julie Huntington, chairwoman of Henley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society, said such a venue would be useful for larger events.

But she added: ?We have to think about the heritage of the Kenton which at the moment is beginning to come into its own.

?It?s a national treasure, being the fourth oldest working theatre in the country. We have to be mindful of protecting that.?

Diana Seidl, speaking on behalf of the Henley Guild of Artists, said: ?I think it?s a wonderful idea and we?re really interested in getting it to happen.

?I fear, however, the problems in Henley are very difficult ? it?s about access and cost.?

She said that under the previous plans several years ago provision had to be made for the upkeep of the centre but the idea was then forgotten.

l What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email

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