Redbridge Council warned over Kenneth More Theatre closure

The boss of the national Theatre’s Trust has warned Redbridge Council that any plans to close the Kenneth More Theatre would not “stack up”.

Director Mhora Samuel wrote to council chief executive Roger Hampson after the Recorder reported rumoured proposals to close the 37-year-old theatre and move productions six miles away to Sir James Hawkey Hall, a community space in Broomhill Road, Woodford Green.

Conservative councillors have been sworn to secrecy after a group meeting last week where the theatre’s future was discussed, though a report is expected to go to cabinet on December 6.

Ms Samuel told the Recorder yesterday(Wednesday) “It is clear this is an area that needs cultural activities to keep it vibrant and exciting.

“The proposal that Hawkey Hall could replace the theatre just doesn’t stack up because it is not a theatre. The need for this venue within Ilford is essential.”

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The council must consult with the Trust, set up four decades ago to protect theatres, if it wants to change the use of the current KMT site, in Oakfield Road, Ilford, away from the arts.

Cllr Joyce Ryan, a long-term supporter of the theatre, would not say if she would vote against any proposal to close it.

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“I would always look very carefully at what is suggested. I know the value of the theatre.” she said. “I can’t put anybody’s mind to rest as I have no idea what the cabinet is going to produce.”

Senior Conservative councillors were said to be “furious” after details of the plan, which involves renovating the community hall, were leaked last week and members received hundreds of emails from concerned theatre-goers and performers.

The move would contradict a core strategy, adopted in 2008, which states the borough will enhance cultural life by “safeguarding the existing viable cultural facilities and modernising existing cultural facilities.”

Cllr Sue Nolan, cabinet member for leisure and culture, said: “The report will be going to cabinet... and it would be innapropriate for me to comment before then.”

The council-owned lease on the building expired 18 months ago.

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