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Kenneth More Theatre supporters hit out over ‘ridiculous’ plan to take away funding

PUBLISHED: 07:00 07 January 2016

Kenneth More Theatre protesters hoping to save the theatre back in 2011

Kenneth More Theatre protesters hoping to save the theatre back in 2011

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Theatre champions have branded proposed cuts to Kenneth More Theatre’s (KMT) funding “disgusting”.

Laura Nayman in the Beggar's Opera at the Kenneth More Theatre in 1975Laura Nayman in the Beggar's Opera at the Kenneth More Theatre in 1975

Former general manager Vivyan Ellacott and theatre governor Cllr Joyce Ryan (Con, Fairlop) are among those opposed to plans to completely withdraw council grants of £157,000 a year by 2018, revealed in council documents this week.

The plan, which comes after theatre consultants were hired by Redbridge Council to determine KMT’s viability, will go to cabinet as part of the council’s initial spending proposals on Tuesday.

It will go to a service committee, budget council and eventually to full council to be decided on later in the year.

Cllr Ryan, who has been helping out at this year’s pantomime, said the proposal, which is subject to the council’s budget consultation, was “disgraceful”.

KMT history

The Kenneth More Theatre opened its doors for the first time on January 3 1975, and has always had a mixture of professional and community shows.

The venue is named after the famous British film and stage actor from the 1950s, Kenneth More, who never visited Ilford until it was announced the theatre would be named after him.

In 2009 plans to redevelop the venue were shelved due to the recession.

Two years later the Conservative-Lib Dem coalition decided to cut £50,000 of the theatre’s grant between 2011 and 2013, which the manager at the time, Robert Jackson, said would force the theatre to close.

In 2013 the theatre had to submit a business plan to the council, before its lease was renewed, to “make more of spaces in the theatre”.

“It’s quite remarkable what the staff and volunteers do and I don’t think it’s being acknowledged,” she said of the theatre in Oakfield Road, Ilford.

“Arts is so vital to people’s wellbeing and I think it’s absolutely ridiculous to take away funding – I feel quite strongly about it. I hope it’s not the beginning of the end, but only time will tell.”

Mr Ellacott, who was manager when the theatre opened, said: “What’s been achieved at the KMT is phenomenal and to think, they [the council] would risk losing it.

“There are other savings that could be made that would have far less of an impact.”

John Lovell, a former chairman of the KMT board, said: “I accept they [the council] need to look at all expenditure to save money but I think their priorities are not sitting correct.”

Council leader Cllr Jas Athwal defended the move, saying it was “the way the world is shifting”.

“The government is forcing councils to try and get people to be self-funding,” he said.

“We will allow KMT to develop their business plan so they can become financially independent – and we’re looking at every area of the council, not just KMT.”

He added: “The council is facing cuts and there are services which are not statutory services.”

The leader said continuing to fund it for the next two years was the “sensible” way forward.

“What would be the final nail in the coffin would be cutting it and saying ‘off you go’ but we’re not doing that,” he said.

KMT managers said they were not in a position to comment.


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