Fears for future of Ilford’s Kenneth More Theatre as business plan drawn up

A business plan aimed at securing the future of the Kenneth More Theatre (KMT) is being drawn up, but its former manager has predicted the community will “lose” the 38-year-old venue because of cuts in funding.

Redbridge Council has agreed to extend the lease of the building in Oakfield Road, Ilford, for up to 35 years.

And as part of its formal submission for a new lease, the Kenneth More Theatre must produce a business plan.

KMT board chairman John Lovell said negotiations were an “ongoing process which will involve a number of factors”, adding relations with the council are good.

Redbridge Council’s cabinet agreed in December that the lease would include break clauses that will allow for it to be terminated at “appropriate points”.

The theatre, which opened its doors in 1974, is losing its funding from the council between 2011 and 2014 – starting with �20,000 in the current financial year – which has thrown into doubt its survival beyond that.

Vivyan Ellacott, who was KMT manager until 2009, told the Recorder he believed the theatre would remain standing, but thinks it will ultimately be run on effectively a part-time basis.

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He added: “If you lose it, you lose the last remaining community facility in Ilford Town Centre.

“People will rent it and put shows on but it would lose completely that special thing that it had.

“It’s extremely sad. But I don’t want to appear as though I’m saying it was wonderful in my time.

“I know how difficult it has become and how difficult the politics has become.”

Members of the KMT’s board include council leader Cllr Keith Prince and cabinet member for leisure Cllr Sue Nolan, as well as others not connected with the local authority.

Theatre manager Steven Day said he could not say much about the negotiations, but the Recorder understands they could continue into April.

Last year the theatre staged a show aimed at plugging the fundraising gap caused by the council cutting its grant.