Taunton’s Brewhouse Theatre is to reopen in April 2014 with a mixed programme of professional and amateur productions in a move that could see the 350-seat venue renamed.
The theatre went into administration in February, with Taunton Deane Borough Council later buying the 61-year lease of the site and its contents from administrator BDO. The council has now awarded the contract to run the venue to Taunton Theatre Association – a not-for-profit company made up of two local community groups keen to preserve the area’s cultural offering.
Phil Bower, a director of TTA, said the theatre would be operated as a charity and added that a board of trustees was being formed, which would appoint a small management team of six or seven. The team will take responsibilty for running the venue and programming shows there.
Until the management team is in place, the trustees will run the venue. Bower said it would have a “soft launch” in April.
“In the interim period, the founder members will be picking up a lot of the tasks. The initial start-up will probably be [led] by volunteers more than anything else,” he said, adding that the first production was likely to be a community show.
“The idea is we will open during the Easter holidays in April, with the first week very much being a community production, and the second being a professional theatre company that uses community actors. You have got to learn to walk before you can run, so we will do a soft start from April to autumn, with the intention of having a more formal programme from the autumn,” he said.
Bower also said the TTA had no paperwork from the previous management team at the venue, and this meant there was “no list of previous agents or bookings”.
“We are essentially a start-up theatre,” he said, adding that the local council was providing financial support from now until March, and that he was hopeful the local authority would support the theatre with a grant in the next financial year. But he said TTA would also be looking to get grant funding and support from private investors. It may also
look to amend the theatre’s name to set it apart from the previous venue, he added.
The council said arts consultants it employed have been working with TTA to ensure the association’s plan will deliver “a financially sustainable future and a varied programme”.
Councillor Norman Cavill, portfolio holder for the arts, said: “The Brewhouse is vitally important to Taunton in ensuring we have a thriving arts and cultural scene for our community, visitors and for those who may be thinking of relocating to Taunton. A successful theatre also makes a very important contribution to our local businesses, improving the offer that Taunton has for that all-important night-time economy.”
He added: “Taunton Theatre Association has worked extremely hard and the group is to be congratulated for what it has achieved so far.
“We look forward greatly to working with them in future to create a viable and sustainable future.”