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'Its a tragedy for Ilford': Residents react to Kenneth More Theatre company closing

PUBLISHED: 14:00 19 March 2019 | UPDATED: 12:12 20 March 2019

Kenneth More Theatre, Oakfield Road, Ilford. Photo: Paul Bennett

Kenneth More Theatre, Oakfield Road, Ilford. Photo: Paul Bennett

Archant

Residents and groups have reacted with outrage following the news that the Kenneth More Theatre (KMT) Company will not schedule any more performances at the beloved community venue after July.

The council-owned site in Oakfield Road has been forced to shut its doors after the Redbridge Theatre Company said it cannot afford to continue after a council subsidy was lost.

Angela Banner, general secretary of Redbridge Pensioners Forum watches around eight performances a year at the KMT and called the situation “a sad day for arts in Redbridge”.

“It is absolutely terrible - it is a tragedy for Ilford and Redbridge generally that the council no longer wish to support the arts.

“Oh dear, oh dear, it is really sad - I am sure that many, many people in Ilford will be absolutely shattered.

“I can’t believe we have fought so long and hard to keep it going and get more people going, it is a really sad day.”

Harvey Shape of Barkingside 21 said the theatre is a focal point for the community and the town.

“I am devastated it is so fundamental to the borough and a lot of cities and towns would cut off their right arm to have a theatre like this.

“Having a theatre in the community keeps stability in the area and makes it a more vibrant settled place - it provides a richness, an attraction and selling point for Ilford.

“A lot of these stage schools will not have a place locally to send their students to perform.”

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.”Taking to social media, Ilford Recorder readers expressed their dismay at the news.

“Oh my gosh, a massive blow,” said one user.

“My parents always took me to the KMT and I’ve been taking my kids - Aladdin was great in December.

“Really upsetting to see this article, we need the arts for our young people.”

Another Facebook user added: “Yet another institution being ripped away.

“We don’t need any more shops we need theatres to take our kids and grandkids.”

Another reader said: “I used to go regularly. It was even better for the amateurs, and there were so many excellent ones.

“No creative outlets left.”

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