Negotiations over future of Ilford’s Kenneth More Theatre stall

Negotiations over the long-term lease of Ilford’s Kenneth More Theatre (KMT) have stalled as the council has waited nearly a year for a business plan.

The KMT’s board has been drawing up a plan of action for the theatre’s future since February.

Redbridge Council said it would consider extending the lease of the theatre in Oakfield Road, Ilford, for up to 35 years based on the plan.

Cllr Keith Prince, a member of the theatre’s board and leader of the council, said: “You’re talking about the next 35 years – it’s a very important document.

“We know the theatre does not reach all parts of our community so we have to explore different avenues.”

He said the business plan needed to be well thought out, which is why it has taken almost a year to complete.

He said: “It’s one of the most diverse boroughs in the country, anyone can do a business plan in five minutes and get it wrong.”

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John Lovell, the board’s chairman, blamed personal matters and a lack of staff for the plan not being completed.

He said: “The business plan is well under way but there are some key areas that need to be completed.

“We are still looking to work with the council and will be sending it across.”

He also criticised the press for painting a doom and gloom picture of the theatre’s future which made it difficult to attract new staff.

He said: “I think that, to some extent, the negativity that was coming out at one time and the negativity of the stories that you [Ilford Recorder] carried didn’t help us.”

Cllr Jas Athwal, Labour group leader, said it “beggars belief” that a business plan hasn’t been forthcoming.

He said: “If it was a bank or a building society, we would have pulled the plug. Everybody wants the KMT to flourish and become a better theatre than it’s ever been.”