Beverley Picture Playhouse, Feasibilty Review, Alun Bond – Artservice
Sylvial Ashwell, Chair, Beverley and District Civic Society
Helen Bell, Town Clerk, Beverley Town Council
Michael Clive, Secretary, Beverley Amateur Operatic Society
Alan Cowley, Performing Arts College Co-ordinator, Longcroft School
Gail Dudson, Director, Beverley Chamber Music Festival
Karen Durham, Resource Development Officer, Arts Council of England – Yorkshire
Mark Elvidge, Chair, Picture Playhouse Action Group
Andrew Eastwood, Beverley Town Council, Chair of Memorial Hall Trust
Janet Farmer, Manager Pocklington Arts Centre
Steve Haller, Chairman, Beverley Theatre Company
Andrew Herbert, Music Officer, Arts Council of England – Yorkshire
Charlie Studdy, Arts and Leisure Manager, Goole Town Council
Delma Tomlin, Beverley Early Music Festival
Chris Wade, Beverley and East Riding Folk Festival
East Riding of Yorkshire Council
Neil Anderson, Sport and Cultural Services Manager
John Clark, Project Manager, Word Quake/Beverley Literature Festival
Alan Menzies, Head of Economic Development
Robert Mitchell, Head of School Music Service
Barry Nettleton, Arts Development Manager
John Read, Valuation and Estates Manager
Darryl Stephenson, Chief Executive
Selected consultation has been carried out as part of this review, including consultation with the Beverley and District Civic Society, Beverley Town Council, the Picture Playhouse Action Group, the Memorial Hall Trust, the arts Council of England – Yorkshire, all of the town’s festivals and the two main amateur performing groups. A number of venues were visited including:
The Memorial Hall
St Mary’s Church
It was evident that the Playhouse is regarded with affection by many in the area, but there is general agreement that the venue requires capital investment and, if it is to have a future, significant changes to its design in order to equip it with enhanced customer facilities, including a café. While there is appreciation of its interior, there is also realism from many of the people consulted about the impact which major capital investment would have on the building. Most (including the Civic Society) accept that the interior would change and that while it might be possible to retain something of the feel of the building it would not remain in its current layout or retain all of its features.
Not all of the town’s festivals use the Playhouse, and those which do also use other venues. There is strong support for the continued availability of a town centre venue and a general lack of enthusiasm for facilities located out of the town centre. There are also reservations about using educational facilities for festivals and other public performances. Some groups and festivals appear not to have seen the re-designed theatre facilities at Longcroft School and still view it as a school hall.
The Memorial Hall is viewed negatively and is generally considered to be in a poor location. The venue’s lack of facilities and poor state of repair are also of concern. The Memorial Hall Trust has recognised the need for major investment in the building and its ambitious plans are designed to address the building’s shortcomings, including its lack of parking, the perception that it is out of the town centre and its lack of flexible internal spaces. A key aim of the plan is to turn the building around by creating a new entrance facing onto the park around the Library and linking to new public parking behind the planned Treasure House building.
The main aim of the Picture Playhouse Action Group is to preserve the Playhouse as an arts and entertainment facility and the group feels that East Riding of Yorkshire Council would be best placed to refurbish and manage the building. It believes that the building could be made to work financially. The group has not proposed alternative management models and is not proposing trust operation. The main requirement of the town’s arts groups and festivals is a town centre venue. While there is some debate over the relative merits of the Playhouse and the Memorial Hall (particularly with regard to location and parking) it is likely that most groups would be prepared to use either facility if they were re-developed and upgraded to provide the necessary level of facilities and customer amenities.
Parking is clearly an issue of concern, but there are differing views. Most people consider that the Playhouse has good parking though some people would be reluctant to park in the Saturday Market in the evenings and it is pointed out that daytime parking is less easy and not available on Saturdays. Most perceive the Memorial Hall as having poor parking (there is currently a low level of awareness of the planned capital scheme and the improvements which would result). Similarly views on the town centre vary. Some people consider it too rowdy to use, particularly at weekends, while others emphasise the importance of a mixed evening economy and the value of arts and entertainment facilities in the town centre in this regard.