Scene Four: Growing Pains 2000-2010
The new millenium brought a number of challenges to the theatre. The "new" theatre was now thirty years old and beginning to show it's age, after all it was intended as an agricultural building, not a public performance space. The roof was leaking, the heating inadequate and the toilets basic. To demolish the building and replace like with like would cost several hundreds of thousands of pounds, whereas a fully equipped, properly built theatre could cost one or two million pounds. Building regulations for public buildings and car parks are more demanding than thirty years ago and a simple replacement agricultural building would not longer be considered adequate.
The only viable option was to sell all or part of the land and use the significant proceeds to build, buy, refurbish, lease or rent a new home on a new location. And so a decade of searching, frustration and dead-ends began. I have lost count of the number of options explored which we discounted or could not make work for us. Meanwhile, all but essential maintenance was carried out on the existing theatre as we expected to move at any minute, so the deterioration continued.
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In preparation for the potential move, and the need to apply for loans and grants, the Theatre became a company limited by guarantee and a registered charity, overseen by trustees and a management committee, all of whom are unpaid volunteers. However, the financial crisis of 2008 was the final straw that dramatically reduced the value of the land and postponed plans for a new Community Centre in Alton that we had hoped to be part of. And so a decision was taken to refurbish, extend and improve the existing building where possible and a programme of works was initiated. This resulted in a new roof, complete rewiring, upgraded central heating, new youth changing rooms as well as improvements to sound and light systems. Now that the essential remedial works are largely complete we are beginning to think of phase two to improve the potential and capacity of the building whilst securing its longer term viability.
And so to Act 2.