New lease of life for Ilford’s Kenneth More Theatre
The lease on Ilford’s iconic Kenneth More Theatre will be renewed after plans were approved by councillors.
Members of the public, including the Recorder, were banned from watching the town hall debate on Tuesday as the power to negotiate the length, and cost of the lease was delegated to a council officer.
The public ban did not deter dozens of theatre supporters who were made to leave the council chamber before the decision was discussed.
Former theatre manager Vivyan Ellacott, who was earlier given the chance to speak in the chamber, said: “After two years of rumours the Kenneth More Theatre does need a long lease and a guaranteed future so it can build the confidence and morale of the staff and volunteers.”
His impassioned speech received loud applause from councillors and the public gallery.
Supporters of the theatre want a 35-year lease, allowing them to apply for funding from national bodies, but the council has refused to disclose the length of the lease it recommended, saying it qualifies for “professional legal privilege” due to the legal relationship between the theatre and the council.
Deputy leader of the Labour group, Cllr Wes Streeting, questioned the decision to ban the press and public from the public debate. He told the Recorder: “Exemptions are made for a good reason but in this case there is clearly a huge amount of public interest and there is a feeling that the cabinet has been conducting too much business behind closed doors.
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“The more open the cabinet can be about the pressures on the theatre the better.”
Under budget cuts made last year, the grant given to the KMT by Redbridge Council will fall from �192,000 in 2009/10 to �142,000 next April.
A council spokeswoman said yesterday that it hopes to sign the lease as quickly as possible.
She said: “We are pleased to announce that the council’s cabinet agreed at its meeting on Tuesday to begin proceedings to renew the lease of the Kenneth More Theatre, subject to the usual legal negotiations and procedures for agreeing any lease.”