Kenneth More Theatre: Ilford will have ‘functioning theatre’ under new management, council leader pledges

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

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

The show will go on at Ilford’s Kenneth More Theatre under new management, Redbridge Council’s Labour leader Jas Athwal has pledged.

Councillor Athwal made an “urgent statement” at a full council meeting, in Redbridge Town Hall, last night (March 21) regarding the closure of the Redbridge Theatre Company which manages the Kenneth More Theatre in Oakfield Road.

It came following the company’s announcement on Tuesday that, after 40 years running the council-owned building, it would cease putting on shows from July as the council has refused to continue subsidising it.“This week’s news is just the closing of one chapter and the start of a new one,” Cllr Athwal said.

He added: “Whilst I can’t vouch for the theatre company I can vouch the theatre.

“There will always be a functioning theatre in Ilford town centre.”

He said the KMT will play a central role in the council’s regeneration of Ilford town centre.

“Our ambition for arts and culture in Redbridge is undimmed and undiminished.”

He told the Recorder of ambitions to renovate the existing theatre to expand its capacity to 700 or 800 people.

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The council is exploring how the theatre can be used by schools and the community in the meantime.

“Over the last few days I have read and heard stories of young people inspired by their time spent at the theatre,” he said.

“The news of the current theatre company running the space is bitterly disappointing.

“Many in this chamber will feel a strong sense of loss.”

He said the council had been subsidising the company since at least 2011 and spent £775,000 in repairs and maintenance alone.

He added: “They said they needed the money to grow new audiences and develop other funding sources.

“I am sorry to say that this investment has not panned out in the way we all had hoped it would.

“I have seen no plan from them.”

“I want to pay thanks to the work the Redbridge Theatre Company have done. But the future will be bright. That is a pledge everybody wants. “

Conservative group leader Cllr Linda Huggett also lamented the end of Redbridge Drama Company.

She said: “We will be supporting any proposal to keep the theatre open.

“Possibly, in this case, any decision should be made cross party.”

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