THE LATEST UPDATE ON THE THEATRE’S FUTURE FROM OUR CHAIRMAN
As you will have known over the last three years if you have attended the last two AGMs and the EGM we held in 2018, the Trustees have become more and more concerned with the rising costs of maintaining the building against falling numbers in membership and audiences, our only real sources of income.
Last year brown asbestos was discovered in the building. The real problem is that it is in the cellar and around the gas and electricity supplies. This means the asbestos removal company could not remove it without a disconnection of energy supplies and both Gas and Electricity companies insisted on disconnecting the supplies from the road rather than at source because they would not send engineers into the cellar where the meters are located because of the asbestos. The cost of disconnection from the road was significantly higher than disconnecting the meters.
We were informed that not having access to the gas and electricity supply in an emergency made the theatre criminally liable if there was an incident. Therefore, we are unable to re-open the theatre even when COVID restrictions are lifted.
The complete cost of removal was moving towards £20,000 plus and we were also told we should not use the outside shed as it contained white asbestos which could be disturbed by carrying large flats and pieces of scenery in and out.
We explained at the last AGM that the likelihood was that we would have to sell the site. Even if we had the asbestos removed the ongoing problems with the building revealed in the 2018 Survey undertaken by the Trustees had not even begun to be addressed. This is added to the increasing problems of casting, finding backstage staff and directors etc. So, the problems were not solely confined to the asbestos but, as identified by many other local amateur theatres, there is an obvious decrease in enthusiasm for amateur theatre as a hobby. Having been closed for well over a year BTC, like many businesses, has been affected detrimentally by the COVID pandemic.
In the end, it is an old Victorian building, converted in 1960 by a group of enthusiasts for amateur theatre, and the fact that it was still functioning in 2021 is amazing and would have probably utterly surprised those pioneers, many of whom I knew well.
Therefore, we have been exploring the difficult task of placing the land on the market and have engaged Kevin Neun of Neun Brook Investment & Development to market the property and we are awaiting the results in 4 weeks’ time.
The EGM in 2019 voted unanimously that, in such a situation, the theatre should form a Trust or Foundation to preserve the legacy of the original members. The Foundation would support and enable suitable community creative arts projects offering opportunities to young people and vulnerable groups and, indeed, support amateur theatre. We are currently exploring the necessary administration required in setting up the Foundation.
However, that doesn’t mean that Beckenham Theatre Company shouldn’t still exist as well and we will ensure that, while there is still enthusiasm and an appropriate management structure to operate as a registered Charity, money will be made available to enable Beckenham Theatre, and particularly the Children and Youth Theatres, to continue.
A working party of Trustees are currently assessing what from our collection of costumes and props can be kept and stored and what could be sold for profit. We are exploring other venues for performance. Louise and Emma are well underway in looking for a new space to run Youth and Children’s Theatres.
Therefore, any rumours you may hear that Beckenham Theatre is ‘closing’ can be happily ignored. The situation is that we are simply, through circumstances beyond our control, having to sell the land at 46 Bromley Road. But Beckenham Theatre will continue, hopefully as an active company, but also in the form of Foundation continuing the aims of our founders.
So do stay in touch and continue to support the theatre and we will continue to keep you informed. Obviously, if you have any questions, you are welcome to contact me via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Chair of Beckenham Theatre Trustees