THE FUTURE of Stratford ArtsHouse needs to be made clear.
So say ‘disappointed’ campaigners following a meeting with Stratford Town Trust which owns the Rother Street venue.
The trust – which announced three weeks ago the venue was no longer sustainable and would shut in May – has assured residents it would remain for community use, and has asked for ideas on the way forward.
But campaigners are not convinced it will be enough to save the venue before its impending closure and want more concrete proposals from the trust itself.
Bear Pit theatre member Dominic Skinner – who launched the ‘Save Stratford ArtsHouse’ campaign – described the lack of formal planning as ‘madness’.
He said: “It’s one of two things – the trust is either not willing to tell us its plans or it is incompetent.
“At our latest ‘save’ meeting, everyone expressed their disappointment at the trust’s lack of transparency which is a level of real concern.
“To expect the community to solve the problem is madness.
“The trust needs to be more upfront if there is an agenda. At the moment there is too much ambiguity.
“I would like to challenge the town trust to tell the community exactly what its plan is.”
He added campaign members had been looking at the set ups of similar venues to get an outline for a proposal in the limited time.
The closure has caused problems among groups which use the space for performance, workshops and meetings.
Arts society Stradfas, which has over 550 members, is looking for a new venue to host lectures.
Chair Ursula Russel said: “News of the closure came like a bolt from the blue.
“Surely the trust must have been planning withdrawal of funding for some time. I received a telephone call one morning in late February which has given us an impossibly short time to seek an alternative for lectures booked in May and June.
“No other venue can accommodate us for consecutive months and creates huge difficulties in communicating and reminding members of changes, many who do not use email.
“We know there is nowhere large enough, but to save our society, we booked the best accommodation available and will cope with the difficulties raised later.”
Stratford Musical Theatre Group has been forced to postpone a production which had been set to take place in November.
Chair Phil Ingle said the group was unable to find another venue to perform Hairspray due to planning rights, meaning auditions next week were cancelled and another production would need to be considered.
Alcester Male Voice Choir has been more fortunate in being able to switch their annual concert scheduled to take place at the Artshouse on May 12 to Alcester Greig Hall on the same date.
The Observer understands certain community based groups are set to discuss proposals with Stratford Town Trust, but we were unable to contact trust chief executive Justin Williams at the time of going to press.
Search ‘Save Stratford ArtsHouse’ on Facebook for more details and updates.