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Eastbourne’s Under Ground Theatre closed due to ‘safeguarding’ issues

The Under Ground Theatre is beneath the library, pictured. Photo: Google street view The Under Ground Theatre is beneath the library, pictured. Photo: Google street view
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The Under Ground Theatre in Eastbourne has been closed until further notice after the operator’s lease was discontinued due to safeguarding concerns.

East Sussex County Council, which owns the theatre, has not renewed the lease of the Eastbourne Arts Centre Charitable Trust and has instead offered the venue out to tender.

All future events are currently being cancelled by the trust, which was on a monthly license. Ticket money will be reimbursed to customers.

A source told The Stage the reason the licence has not been renewed is due to safeguarding concerns.

Located beneath Eastbourne’s central library, the 150-seat space has a programme that includes drama, comedy, jazz and art exhibitions.

A statement posted on the venue’s Facebook page from Alan Hutchinson of the Under Ground Theatre’s Committee said: “Everything that could be done has been done.

“This issue arose through a complication with our lease and the subsequent tenancy at will. This then puts our liability insurance in doubt and we cannot operate without certainty that we will be covered.

“East Sussex County Council were not responsible for this. We will be tendering to resume at the Under Ground Theatre.”

Hutchison states the trust understands the public “outcry” around the closure – which has seen multiple comments posted on social media in support of the venue – but that the theatre does not want to prejudice its tendering process.

The statement adds: “Any individual action taken could inadvertently create the wrong atmosphere and would not always be based on knowledge of the full circumstances. We would, therefore, ask that you place your trust in us to remedy this situation and be available to support us at the appropriate time.”

A spokesman for the council said: “We can confirm that the Eastbourne Arts Centre’s lease of the Underground Theatre is not being renewed, and they will cease to operate from the theatre from Monday (25).

“However, we are keen to see the premises continue to be used as a theatre, both as a centre of entertainment in Eastbourne and to support the literacy ambitions of our libraries strategy. So we will be inviting tenders to provide a new theatre in that space.”

The current operators of the Under Ground Theatre did not respond to a request for further comment.

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