Further meetings over new theatre in Exeter bid
CHAMPIONS of a new theatre for Exeter are planning further meetings to explore the possibility.
An initial meeting was organised by Exeter Civic Society and was attended by more than 50 people.
Of those who went along, 36 said they were in favour of a major new theatre venue in the city centre, and 20 said they would like to be part of a working group.
The civic society, which has made it clear it is neither for nor against a new theatre, has agreed to host further meetings.
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The initial meeting arose following discussions about the re-development of Exeter's bus and coach station, which many see as being a great location for a new 1,200-seat theatre. The city council takes the view it would rather have a new swimming pool as part of the redevelopment.
Keith Lewis, vice chairman of the society, said: "Most of the feeling in the room was very positive, with people not wanting to threaten the existence of the theatres we already have.
"People did say they thought Northcott is not right for Exeter, saying it is not in the right place and doesn't put on the sort of shows they want to see.
"We have not got endless funding, but we are prepared to host further meetings.
"We will write to those who have expressed an interest, inviting them to another meeting, if that's what they want to do."
Not all are convinced the city needs a 1,200 seat theatre.
David Lockwood, director of Exeter's BikeShed Theatre , attended the meeting and afterwards told the Echo: "From a financial point of view it is a complete non-starter.
"The Arts Council has announced £11.6m cuts to its funding and ATT, which runs theatres in Torquay and Bristol, takes over venues which are falling into disrepair to help existing buildings rather than build new ones.
"Also, the number of people going to the theatre is going down rather than up."
Andrew Leadbetter, city and county councillor, also went along to the meeting and said: "I have an open mind and wanted to find out more.
"I do think it would be lovely to walk past a theatre in the centre of Exeter, see what's on and think 'I would like to go and see that', but don't know if it's feasible. I think the city council should investigate it more."
The city council has consistently said a theatre the size of the Theatre Royal in Plymouth is not sustainable, and would be unlikely to attract funding.