Monday, 17 October 2011

Berry Expensive?

The Berry lived up to its billing as a professional standard theatre at the end of September with an excellent performance of Oh! What a Lovely War by the Blackeyed Theatre Company.

A full house saw the facilities of the theatre and the size of the stage being exploited to entertaining and thought provoking effect.  Mr. and Mrs. Hedge End Blogger thought it was worth every penny of the ticket price.

The Berry's use as a community theatre is being encouraged by Hedge End Town Council with a decision this month to offer a 50% subsidy of the hire fee to local groups wishing to use the facility.  There is clearly a problem with making this professional standard, fully equipped modern theatre affordable to amateur and community companies who might be more used to paying the going rate for village halls and school assembly halls.  So the Community and Culture Committee under its new leadership this year of Cllr Louise Bloom has responded to this.  Perhaps Cllr Bloom could use her influence as an Eastleigh Borough Council cabinet member to encourage The Berry to reduce its prices next year for community organisations by 50% and resolve the problem at its source.

Cllr Bloom's committee also decided to invest £2000 to put on a free film and live performance next Spring and another £10000 to support as yet undefined community and school projects.

There is clearly a problem with the theatre's pricing structure, and lessons are surely there to be learned from the first year of operation.  It is right that the Town Council is supporting the theatre in its first year as it establishes itself, but an ongoing subsidy from the Town Council to the Borough would be harder to justify.

The Town Council is the most local level of local government and can be the most responsive, but as the higher levels of administration make cuts to balance their books they cannot expect the Town to pick up the pieces every time.

It doesn't help the hard pressed council tax payers of Hedge End if Tory Hampshire and Lib Dem Eastleigh freeze their council tax, but the Town Council precept goes up to to fill the gaps in the services they are no longer providing.

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