Can the Derby Playhouse be saved?

News this week that the Arts Council has settled a legal challenge to its authority has revived hopes that the theatre will reopen.

Derby Playhouse which is housed in the centre of the city’s shopping centre

It has been announced that proceedings in the High Court lodged by the Derby Playhouse’s artistic director, Stephen Edwards, have been settled with agreement that the Arts Council will step back from forcing the theatre into immediate liquidation.

Had the theatre been forced into liquidation the Arts Council would have been the largest creditor.

The agreement paves the way for the new Board of Trustees to implement a rescue package which could see the theatre reopen in the autumn in time for its Jubilee celebrations in November.

Everyone associated with the theatre has experienced a torrid past few months. The theatre was forced to close last November when the local council withdrew funding; emergency talks led to a reopening which allowed the Christmas programme to continue, ending with the “final” performance on 2 February. Later that month administrators were appointed and the Arts Council started proceedings to reclaim redevelopment grants which threatened liquidation.

Since that time the artistic director Stephen Edwards and the Chair of the theatre’s board, Professor Jonathan Powers have been leading the battle to save the venue.

Commenting on this week’s developments Professor Jonathan Powers said: “The Board is grateful for the courage and tenacity of Stephen Edwards in taking this action. Thanks to him we are now back where we were in February.

“We have a plan to get the theatre up and running in the autumn. It will be a leaner and battle-hardened organisation. It will need support and commitment from the people of Derby and Derbyshire and from the theatrical profession to ensure that world-class professionally produced theatre can once again thrive in Derby, on our stage, in our building, for the next 60 years.”

Lynne Korniak, BECTU National Official welcomed this week’s news but acknowledged that alternative sources of funding would now need to be identified. Commenting Lynne Korniak said: “We welcome the news that Derby Playhouse Limited now has the opportunity to develop their rescue plan and look forward to this leading to our members returning to their jobs in the theatre.”

Staff have been invited to a meeting next Monday 19 May to discuss next steps.

Thursday 15 May 2008