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Theatre groups protest against proposed Derby Assembly Rooms replacement

Protestors outside Derby City Council headquarters
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Members of Derby’s theatre groups have gathered outside the city council headquarters to protest against proposals for a new music and performance venue.

The proposed 3,000 capacity multi-purpose venue, focused on music and comedy, is the “wrong scheme” for the city, according to the Derby Arts and Theatre Association, which organised the protest.

DATA, an organisation representing amateur arts and theatre groups in the city, believes that the council should instead build an “iconic 1,500-seat theatre and a concert hall”.

The new venue will sit on the site of the Assembly Rooms, which closed in 2014 after a fire. Following a feasibility study, the council has said its preferred option for the new venue would be the 3,000-capacity “flexible” venue, which would not have theatre facilities such as a flytower.

About 50 members of DATA attended the protest on October 4. Following this, Derby Council has agreed to put the results from the feasibility study to public consultation before a decision is made.

After this is concluded, the work to find an operator and start design work will begin.

Steve Dunning, chair of DATA, said: “The consultation over this proposal has been totally inadequate and, as a result, the council has chosen the wrong scheme.

“We need a project to revitalise the cultural offer of the city centre and the best way to do this is to build an iconic venue, incorporating a 1,500-seat theatre plus a proper concert hall. This will put Derby on the map and help us to compete with Nottingham and Leicester. It will also bring benefits to the hospitality industry and make a major contribution to the regeneration of the city.”

Dunning said the current venue proposed by the council would not attract large-scale touring shows to the city.

Writing in a letter to the council, he said: “Why should a promoter organising a national tour of a West End show bother with Derby, where they will have to make all sorts of adjustments, when they have bespoke theatres with the right facilities in Nottingham, Leicester and Stoke?”

Deputy council leader Martin Rawson said the new music and performance venue could bring an “exciting and diverse cultural offering to the city centre”, with the potential to attract an estimated annual audience of 322,000, provide 395 full-time jobs and generate £9.6 million for the economy.

“This option is not a foregone conclusion. There is no design in place and there is no programme of events in place as yet. We are in the formative stages,” Rawson added.

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