Theatre plan in the open

A PROJECT to turn The Dell into a venue capable of hosting concerts and other open-air events began today (Thursday) Kevin Dalton, the event organiser for The Voice of Hertfordshire competition, has teamed up with Hertfordshire Police, North Hertfordshire

A PROJECT to turn The Dell into a venue capable of hosting concerts and other open-air events began today (Thursday)

Kevin Dalton, the event organiser for The Voice of Hertfordshire competition, has teamed up with Hertfordshire Police, North Hertfordshire District Council and other organisations to improve the area, which is located beside Windmill Hill.

If all goes to plan Mr Dalton will be ready to put on Divas in the Dell, a concert featuring Voices' finalists, in July and although it will take place at about the same time as Hitchin Festival and Rhythms of the World, should the latter go ahead, it is a separate event.

Speaking about the project, Mr Dalton, who is 49, said: "We wanted to up the ante. If we did the Divas concert in The Priory it would become part of the Hitchin Festival but we wanted to do this as a standalone event so we decided to do it away from both the festival and Rhythms.

"I was looking for a place to do it and stumbled on The Dell which at the time looked like a builders' skip, but there is evidence of an open air theatre.

"I'd planned to clean it all up, lay down a stage, put in some lights and a sound system and have a party in the park-type event where people could come out on warm summers' nights and throw down a picnic rug and enjoy themselves."

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Mr Dalton added: "The Dell is used by people who ordinarily wouldn't come out in the daytime and it has got a bad reputation but after having a few conversations with Hertfordshire Police chief inspector Julie Wheatley and finding out it was on their agenda too, we wanted to tidy it up, scrape it all out, clean it up and put in a stage for the Divas concert and which could also be used by other societies."

Mr Dalton planned to join pianist Janise Frith and other interested parties at The Dell today to have a look at the area and decide what needs doing and, if possible, put a plan of action in place.

This could also include local youngsters.

"I'll listen to them about the area," Mr Dalton said, "but I want to also make sure that what we do here isn't ruined. I'll meet them halfway. I'll try to get youths involved with this and possibly give them the chance to perform on stage.

"We're doing it because we want to make a difference to people's lives. It's all beg, steal and borrow and if we can raise money to help towards it, we will."

The project has the backing of leading Hitchin councillor Judi Billing who said: "I have always thought that The Dell with its wonderful open air theatre space was the most magical facility that we could have.

"I've been really saddened that not enough time, attention and love has been put into maintaining it and I'm absolutely delighted to think that it could be restored for the enjoyment of the whole town.

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