By Nick Gill
Saturday, August 4, 2012
A THEATRE group has been “left in limbo” after plans for a multi-million pound arts centre were revealed last week.
"In theory it seems like a good idea as Letchworth needs something shiny and new but it feels like being left in limbo for five years"
Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation announced Plinston in Letchworth GC will be taken on by Letchworth Arts Centre in a five-year project to turn it into a regional centre for arts.
The Song, Pantomime and Drama Society (SPADS) had performed its pantomime at the venue in Broadway every year since it opened in 1982 but the group’s 75th anniversary show will be held in December at St Francis College’s theatre in the town instead.
“My concern is whether they will still enable local groups to do shows there or will we get pushed out to encourage more professionals to come in,” said SPADS chairman Patrick Lohan.
“Are they going to have a professional panto in there instead of us? We just don’t know. In theory it seems like a good idea as Letchworth needs something shiny and new but it feels like being left in limbo for five years.”
Letchworth GC resident Paul Smith, a former stage manager at Plinston, said: “This great local venue has been the centre of the live music scene for many years now and has been host to some fantastic live bands – is this to be lost forever?
“I was involved for many years in various roles at Plinston and feel very strongly that the loss of this venue would be a grave mistake.”
John Lewis, chief executive of the Heritage Foundation, said: “We’re proposing to create a new purpose-built arts centre which will not only improve the entertainment offer in Letchworth, but attract a wider audience, bringing more people to the town. The new facility will have spaces for live entertainment, including music.”
A number of groups have had to find new venues since Plinston held its last show in March but dance club Cero Central and the North Herts Organ Society both have found suitable alternatives.
After being based at Plinston for 20 years, organ society secretary Geoff Tomlinson said it was a shame the group had to move but that the society was very happy with the new base at Letchworth Garden City Church in Icknield Way.
A public consultation to develop the plans – which include a 300-seat multipurpose auditorium, gallery and dance spaces - will take place at the start of the next year. In the short-term, North Hertfordshire College will be using the building as temporary teaching accommodation while its Hitchin campus is redeveloped.