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Bill Kenwright in row with Preston theatre over alleged £70k Blood Brothers debt

Sean Jones and Simon Willmont in a previous Bill Kenwright tour of Blood Brothers at Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, in 2017
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Bill Kenwright’s theatre company is threatening legal action against a venue in Preston, which it claims owes debts of around £70,000.

BKL is pursuing Preston Guild Hall and Charter Theatre over the non-payment of what it has described as a “very overdue and undisputed sum”, which The Stage understands to be in the region of £70,000.

It relates to box office takings from a touring production of Blood Brothers, which BKL presented in Preston in September 2018, starring Linzi Hateley.

Linzi Hateley to star in UK tour of Blood Brothers

BKL said the theatre had failed to pay what it owed despite rearranging payment deadlines several times. The outstanding amount represents the remainder of a partially paid sum. BKL has said that it will now begin legal proceedings in an attempt to recover the money.

BKL executive director Steve Potts said: “It is very rare indeed to be owed such a large overdue amount from a theatre, and for so long.

“Having used best endeavours to resolve the matter for months now without success, which has included seeing the theatre repeatedly miss its own suggested payment deadlines, the chances of an amicable, appropriate and professional resolution with this theatre seem to be dwindling.”

The Guild Hall and Charter Theatre was taken over by local businessman Simon Rigby in 2014, whose company the Rigby Organisation runs a number of businesses in the North West in the hospitality, energy, property and care sectors.

Preston Guild Hall and Charter Theatre enters private ownership

Rigby bought the theatre, which comprises two performance spaces and the adjoining Guild Hall shopping arcade, from Preston City Council, which had considered demolishing the building because it could no longer afford the £1 million annual running costs.

Under the new ownership, the Guild Hall and Charter Theatre underwent extensive redevelopment as part of wider plans to transform it into an arts, entertainment and leisure complex.

Potts told The Stage that BKL had ruled out presenting any further shows at the Guild Hall and Charter Theatre under the current management, despite having considered taking future productions there based on strong past box-office sales.

It has previously taken shows including Dreamboats and Petticoats, Half a Sixpence and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to the venue.

In 2011, Kenwright’s company was left £100,000 out of pocket following the collapse of the Broadway Theatre in Peterborough. At the time, that venue’s operating company went bust, with debts running into hundreds of thousands of pounds, owed to a range of creditors.

Neither the Guild Hall and Charter Theatre nor the Rigby Organisation responded to requests for comment by The Stage.

Editor’s View: Touring is already risky – venues, don’t make it worse

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