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Kenneth More Theatre company forced to cancel shows in Ilford from July

PUBLISHED: 11:27 19 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:13 20 March 2019

The company will be forced to leave the venue. Photo: Paul Bennett

The company will be forced to leave the venue. Photo: Paul Bennett

Archant

In a “major blow” for the community, performances at the Kenneth More Theatre will cease and no more events will be programmed at the venue after July this year.

The last pantomine made more than £100k in profit. Photo: Ellie HoskinsThe last pantomine made more than £100k in profit. Photo: Ellie Hoskins

After more than 40 years of running the council-owned building, Redbridge Theatre Company will be forced to leave the venue in Oakfield Road, Ilford over funding issues.

A complete loss of subsidy from Redbridge Council, coupled with rising running costs, has meant that the troupe can no longer keep the building open – despite making more than £100,000 profit on this year’s pantomime.

The company met with the council to explain the position in detail and the risks it faced and provided copies of its accounts.

It requested a partial restoration of the subsidy for the next two years while it continued working on fundraising development, increased diversity of productions and build up of new audiences and numbers of people visiting the theatre.

The theatre showed a variety of peformances including Dirty Dancing. Photo: ArchantThe theatre showed a variety of peformances including Dirty Dancing. Photo: Archant

As all theatre performances are programmed in advance, a decision from the council was requested by March 13.

The company said it was told that the council’s position on reinstating financial support to them would be reviewed, but to date it has not been given any response.

Following a board of governors’ resolution at a general meeting on Wednesday March 13, 2019, trustees made the regrettable decision that performances will cease, and no events will be scheduled.

The Redbridge Theatre Company will be taking a hiatus to plan the next stage for its future.

Jeremy Smith, board of governors chairman said: “This will be a major blow to the local community and the company’s supporters as the theatre has been at the centre of the community for over 40 years providing much enjoyment to its audiences.

“It has been the starting point for so much talent that has been nurtured within the local community, a significant number of whom have gone on to have professional careers in the West End, both on stage and backstage,

“In addition, the amateur performing companies provide many young people with positive role models and opportunities for teamwork, within a creative hobby in a fully functioning, professionally resourced theatre.”

Redbridge Council gave a comment after this story was first published.

Council Leader, councillor Jas Athwal said the local authority gave the theatre two years to prepare for the loss of the subsidy and it has continued to meet the substantial cost of maintaining the building.

“Successive Conservative and Labour administrations in Redbridge have tried to support the Kenneth More Theatre to stand on its own two feet and three years ago we agreed to do the same,” he said.

“Despite our best efforts and a considerable amount of taxpayers’ money in grants to cover the costs of performances and maintenance they have found it difficult to become a viable business.

“This is regrettable and we want to thank the KMT for all it has contributed over many years to the local community.

“Our vision for the coming years is to bring forward a leisure and cultural hub on this site and in the meantime, we will work to ensure the community are able to access the theatre as a performance venue.”

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