Council to put £1.6m towards theatre restoration

UPGRADE PLANS: Darlington Civic Theatre

UPGRADE PLANS: Darlington Civic Theatre

First published in News

A COUNCIL has agreed to underwrite £1.6m of the estimated £8.2m cost of restoring a North-East theatre, in the hope of encouraging further investment.

Darlington Borough Council has applied for help from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the work at Darlington Civic Theatre, which needs a major overhaul for it to remain viable.

The council, like many others in the region, is faced with having to make millions of pounds worth of cuts to balance its books.

In a report to members, the council's director of resources Paul Wildsmith said fundraising would be necessary to reach the £1.6m target.

He wrote: "Such a significant sum cannot be raised without considerable investment in terms of senior officer time and financial input.

"With any fundraising campaign, there is a risk that the target is not achieved.

"This funding is required to deliver the overall project and therefore it is necessary to consider how this element of the project could be funded if the fundraising campaign is unsuccessful.

"The restored Civic Theatre will have increased seating capacity, as well as improving the quality of seating throughout the auditorium.

"Changes to the seating layout will increase ticket sales."

Chief executive Ada Burns will lead the fundraising drive and the council has also agreed to appoint a development and fundraising manager for the theatre - a post that will attract a salary of up to £35,000."

An earlier bid for £5m of HLF help was unsuccessful, but hopes are high the theatre will be included in the next round of grants.

Councillor Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure, said he was hoping for 'good news' when the HLF announces its decision on funding grants in September.

Cllr Heather Scott, leader of the opposing Conservative group, added: "I support the recommendations and hope we will be successful with our HLF bid.

"I understand we were near the top last time and hopefully we will be at the top of the pile this time round.

"We should encourage people from outside the authority to do some of the fundraising.

"We should should approach somebody like Vic Reeves, who is local, and might be willing to act as a patron for us."

Cllr Wallis replied: "We are looking to identify people that can bring not just money but a sense of profile to one of the best-preserved and best-loved theatres in the UK."

Comments (27)

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7:12am Sat 19 Jul 14

Bright And Cheerful says...

Well I attend as many shows as I can and its the nearest theatre to where I live which also helps when depending on public transport. Extra seating may help bring in extra audiences And visiting productions may be viiable and more willing to visit.

A new layout and increased capacity may see a greater variety of shows willing to appear.

Perhaps productions may realise there is a recession and accept sometime prices need reducing or are priced at a level the public can afford especially in austere times/outside of London and big cities.

Also some shows expect a guaranteed amount before the Civic gets a share of the money paid by a person in the audience. If we lose the theatre its not because the staff and management are not trying.

I wish the venture well and the Civic success for its future. However in the next breath if all else fails, I have some smaller shows that have been passed over to the Dolphin Centre and perhaps the new independent venture in Bondgate may help keep live entertainment in town. Having lost the Art Centre we really don't want to lose anything else.
Well I attend as many shows as I can and its the nearest theatre to where I live which also helps when depending on public transport. Extra seating may help bring in extra audiences And visiting productions may be viiable and more willing to visit. A new layout and increased capacity may see a greater variety of shows willing to appear. Perhaps productions may realise there is a recession and accept sometime prices need reducing or are priced at a level the public can afford especially in austere times/outside of London and big cities. Also some shows expect a guaranteed amount before the Civic gets a share of the money paid by a person in the audience. If we lose the theatre its not because the staff and management are not trying. I wish the venture well and the Civic success for its future. However in the next breath if all else fails, I have some smaller shows that have been passed over to the Dolphin Centre and perhaps the new independent venture in Bondgate may help keep live entertainment in town. Having lost the Art Centre we really don't want to lose anything else. Bright And Cheerful
  • Score: 12

8:11am Sat 19 Jul 14

Madadrian says...

It is disgusting that council tax payers money should be spent on commercial ventures. Can we not get darlington council investigated for fraud?
It is disgusting that council tax payers money should be spent on commercial ventures. Can we not get darlington council investigated for fraud? Madadrian
  • Score: 28

10:03am Sat 19 Jul 14

Apocalypse Later says...

is you pocket being picked again Adrian? - y'miserable old sod
is you pocket being picked again Adrian? - y'miserable old sod Apocalypse Later
  • Score: -33

10:46am Sat 19 Jul 14

LUSTARD says...

you need to get in touch with mr wong from shangzhatsai, iso standard company, just give the spec and theyll be on the job in a wink with massive savings, for the seating that is, as all the quality seats from the arts centre have now been flogged off cheap. with the savings, cos thats the buzz word we could train a few apprentice fitters etc in the civic refurb.
you need to get in touch with mr wong from shangzhatsai, iso standard company, just give the spec and theyll be on the job in a wink with massive savings, for the seating that is, as all the quality seats from the arts centre have now been flogged off cheap. with the savings, cos thats the buzz word we could train a few apprentice fitters etc in the civic refurb. LUSTARD
  • Score: -4

11:05am Sat 19 Jul 14

Charlie Bradley says...

£1.6m is a lot of money for a council that is supposed to be cash-strapped.

Whilst it is good the town has a theatre, it is a shame that the money could not have been found at the time to keep the Arts Centre open as that was a facility where members of the community could actually participate in activities at rather than just watch performances.

I note they also want to increase seating capacity at the theatre. That concerns me a bit as leg room in the stalls is already very poor. surely fewer more comfortable seats would be better.
£1.6m is a lot of money for a council that is supposed to be cash-strapped. Whilst it is good the town has a theatre, it is a shame that the money could not have been found at the time to keep the Arts Centre open as that was a facility where members of the community could actually participate in activities at rather than just watch performances. I note they also want to increase seating capacity at the theatre. That concerns me a bit as leg room in the stalls is already very poor. surely fewer more comfortable seats would be better. Charlie Bradley
  • Score: 30

11:51am Sat 19 Jul 14

Madadrian says...

Apocalypse Later wrote:
is you pocket being picked again Adrian? - y'miserable old sod
I see the darlington low life has discovered this site
[quote][p][bold]Apocalypse Later[/bold] wrote: is you pocket being picked again Adrian? - y'miserable old sod[/p][/quote]I see the darlington low life has discovered this site Madadrian
  • Score: 32

1:13pm Sat 19 Jul 14

Awake-in-Darlo says...

Bright And Cheerful wrote:
Well I attend as many shows as I can and its the nearest theatre to where I live which also helps when depending on public transport. Extra seating may help bring in extra audiences And visiting productions may be viiable and more willing to visit.

A new layout and increased capacity may see a greater variety of shows willing to appear.

Perhaps productions may realise there is a recession and accept sometime prices need reducing or are priced at a level the public can afford especially in austere times/outside of London and big cities.

Also some shows expect a guaranteed amount before the Civic gets a share of the money paid by a person in the audience. If we lose the theatre its not because the staff and management are not trying.

I wish the venture well and the Civic success for its future. However in the next breath if all else fails, I have some smaller shows that have been passed over to the Dolphin Centre and perhaps the new independent venture in Bondgate may help keep live entertainment in town. Having lost the Art Centre we really don't want to lose anything else.
Some good points in above comment.
As a complete outsider; my view is that the Civic has a confused identity.. The council seem to run it along the lines of a "private business model" which has to make a profit for THEM ..? Surely it is a community asset ? A lot of people see it as a luxury for the better-off. Exclusive...
Look at it another way. It is a venue for performances to be enjoyed by the public. Why cannot this be a wider range and with cheaper affordable ticket prices sometimes; to suit the wider public. Such as local drama groups, dance troupes, Battle of the Bands, talent
shows and more ? Recruit volunteers to help run it as a COMMUNITY ASSET. These figures quoted for work on the building are astronomical.
It is not the London Palladium ! Or are the council wanting to alter and "modernise" and thus lose the character, put up tickets even more, etc. etc.? They do seem to have a vision of Darlington as a latterday version
of Milton Keynes, (Stamp out heritage , bring in new and tacky.) try to make money for council coffers. Only it won`t. Shortsiighted and not listening to us who live here and pay their wages .
[quote][p][bold]Bright And Cheerful[/bold] wrote: Well I attend as many shows as I can and its the nearest theatre to where I live which also helps when depending on public transport. Extra seating may help bring in extra audiences And visiting productions may be viiable and more willing to visit. A new layout and increased capacity may see a greater variety of shows willing to appear. Perhaps productions may realise there is a recession and accept sometime prices need reducing or are priced at a level the public can afford especially in austere times/outside of London and big cities. Also some shows expect a guaranteed amount before the Civic gets a share of the money paid by a person in the audience. If we lose the theatre its not because the staff and management are not trying. I wish the venture well and the Civic success for its future. However in the next breath if all else fails, I have some smaller shows that have been passed over to the Dolphin Centre and perhaps the new independent venture in Bondgate may help keep live entertainment in town. Having lost the Art Centre we really don't want to lose anything else.[/p][/quote]Some good points in above comment. As a complete outsider; my view is that the Civic has a confused identity.. The council seem to run it along the lines of a "private business model" which has to make a profit for THEM ..? Surely it is a community asset ? A lot of people see it as a luxury for the better-off. Exclusive... Look at it another way. It is a venue for performances to be enjoyed by the public. Why cannot this be a wider range and with cheaper affordable ticket prices sometimes; to suit the wider public. Such as local drama groups, dance troupes, Battle of the Bands, talent shows and more ? Recruit volunteers to help run it as a COMMUNITY ASSET. These figures quoted for work on the building are astronomical. It is not the London Palladium ! Or are the council wanting to alter and "modernise" and thus lose the character, put up tickets even more, etc. etc.? They do seem to have a vision of Darlington as a latterday version of Milton Keynes, (Stamp out heritage , bring in new and tacky.) try to make money for council coffers. Only it won`t. Shortsiighted and not listening to us who live here and pay their wages . Awake-in-Darlo
  • Score: 6

1:23pm Sat 19 Jul 14

hogworth says...

Neither for or against Civic Theatre but the same old think comes to mind, I thought the council was skint!
Neither for or against Civic Theatre but the same old think comes to mind, I thought the council was skint! hogworth
  • Score: 24

3:37pm Sat 19 Jul 14

cromwell1599 says...

8.2 million seems an awful lot to refurbish what is essentially a small theatre. It's a shame that a similar amount couldn't have been thrown at the art centre which was a more diverse and accessible facility catering for music, drama, comedy and exhibitions in less formal, more relaxed surroundings than the Civic. Having said that the theatre should be preserved and supported but does it really need increased capacity ?
8.2 million seems an awful lot to refurbish what is essentially a small theatre. It's a shame that a similar amount couldn't have been thrown at the art centre which was a more diverse and accessible facility catering for music, drama, comedy and exhibitions in less formal, more relaxed surroundings than the Civic. Having said that the theatre should be preserved and supported but does it really need increased capacity ? cromwell1599
  • Score: 13

6:43pm Sat 19 Jul 14

pilchrat says...

Charlie Bradley wrote:
£1.6m is a lot of money for a council that is supposed to be cash-strapped.

Whilst it is good the town has a theatre, it is a shame that the money could not have been found at the time to keep the Arts Centre open as that was a facility where members of the community could actually participate in activities at rather than just watch performances.

I note they also want to increase seating capacity at the theatre. That concerns me a bit as leg room in the stalls is already very poor. surely fewer more comfortable seats would be better.
I agree about the legroom. The longer-legged among us are crippled in the current seating unless you can grab an end seat of some sort. Better more comfortable seats, rather than more seats, gets my vote!

Don't agree that the council shouldn't be helping out; if you read the story it says it will attempt to fundraise that amount first and foremost.

Bizarre that generally folks are against spending on cultural things though.
[quote][p][bold]Charlie Bradley[/bold] wrote: £1.6m is a lot of money for a council that is supposed to be cash-strapped. Whilst it is good the town has a theatre, it is a shame that the money could not have been found at the time to keep the Arts Centre open as that was a facility where members of the community could actually participate in activities at rather than just watch performances. I note they also want to increase seating capacity at the theatre. That concerns me a bit as leg room in the stalls is already very poor. surely fewer more comfortable seats would be better.[/p][/quote]I agree about the legroom. The longer-legged among us are crippled in the current seating unless you can grab an end seat of some sort. Better more comfortable seats, rather than more seats, gets my vote! Don't agree that the council shouldn't be helping out; if you read the story it says it will attempt to fundraise that amount first and foremost. Bizarre that generally folks are against spending on cultural things though. pilchrat
  • Score: 7

7:54pm Sat 19 Jul 14

DarloXman says...

"Chief executive Ada Burns will lead the fundraising drive."

Well it would be nice if she paid back some of her obscene £186,000 salary to the people of Darlington! Otherwise I can't see her being able to raise a penny. Ada Burns (OBE nominated) is not known to be particularly competent!
"Chief executive Ada Burns will lead the fundraising drive." Well it would be nice if she paid back some of her obscene £186,000 salary to the people of Darlington! Otherwise I can't see her being able to raise a penny. Ada Burns (OBE nominated) is not known to be particularly competent! DarloXman
  • Score: 35

7:59pm Sat 19 Jul 14

DarloXman says...

Bottom line is that visiting Theatres for most people is just too expensive. There are many shows that me and my family would like to see - we would in fact like to go most weeks but at an average cost of £20 per seat we just can't afford an £80 ticket cost with the additional cost of travel, refreshments and programmes etc.

I also struggle to understand how these prices are meant to be subsidised? Someone must be making a killing!
Bottom line is that visiting Theatres for most people is just too expensive. There are many shows that me and my family would like to see - we would in fact like to go most weeks but at an average cost of £20 per seat we just can't afford an £80 ticket cost with the additional cost of travel, refreshments and programmes etc. I also struggle to understand how these prices are meant to be subsidised? Someone must be making a killing! DarloXman
  • Score: 18

8:05pm Sat 19 Jul 14

Gamechanger says...

A fabulous theatre that absolutely deserves to be treasured. It's right for the council to lead the way with refurbishment costs. Agree with comments that a review of ticket prices is in order to bring it within reach of people on modest incomes.
A fabulous theatre that absolutely deserves to be treasured. It's right for the council to lead the way with refurbishment costs. Agree with comments that a review of ticket prices is in order to bring it within reach of people on modest incomes. Gamechanger
  • Score: 4

8:07pm Sat 19 Jul 14

DarloXman says...

Another point - for £8.2 million you could build a brand new theatre - achieving the much needed increased leg room and additional seating! Think about it - for £8.2 million any well managed organisation could get a lot for their money!
Another point - for £8.2 million you could build a brand new theatre - achieving the much needed increased leg room and additional seating! Think about it - for £8.2 million any well managed organisation could get a lot for their money! DarloXman
  • Score: 24

9:32pm Sat 19 Jul 14

Got Ya says...

The cost of a seat at the Civic is far less the than the cost elsewhere for ' live' theatre so please get real..........it offers great value for money and deserves to be supported.
If it were to close those whingeing here would then moan about its loss.
The cost of a seat at the Civic is far less the than the cost elsewhere for ' live' theatre so please get real..........it offers great value for money and deserves to be supported. If it were to close those whingeing here would then moan about its loss. Got Ya
  • Score: -17

10:08pm Sat 19 Jul 14

harry2 says...

The theatre is a great asset for the town,
I bet if this story was about the council closing the theatre everyone would be moaning at that .
The theatre is a great asset for the town, I bet if this story was about the council closing the theatre everyone would be moaning at that . harry2
  • Score: -8

10:39pm Sat 19 Jul 14

lovedarlo says...

why can the council spend 1.6 million on the civic theatre used by such a small favoured few in the town , and not spend £67 000 on reopening the public toilets under the indoor market , surely this makes more sense . Yes the civic is a good asset but so is more than one l toilet in the cornmill
why can the council spend 1.6 million on the civic theatre used by such a small favoured few in the town , and not spend £67 000 on reopening the public toilets under the indoor market , surely this makes more sense . Yes the civic is a good asset but so is more than one l toilet in the cornmill lovedarlo
  • Score: 14

10:51am Sun 20 Jul 14

Mike2012 says...

lovedarlo wrote:
why can the council spend 1.6 million on the civic theatre used by such a small favoured few in the town , and not spend £67 000 on reopening the public toilets under the indoor market , surely this makes more sense . Yes the civic is a good asset but so is more than one l toilet in the cornmill
Great point!

How about this for a novel idea.... If a business doesn't make enough to subsidise itself completely, IT'S FLAWED. Let the paying public decide, if they don't profit without ANY subsidisation, then close it, just like any other business has to (well, unless it has backing from the Council coffers).

And, as for the 8.2M "renovation" cost.... GET REAL.
[quote][p][bold]lovedarlo[/bold] wrote: why can the council spend 1.6 million on the civic theatre used by such a small favoured few in the town , and not spend £67 000 on reopening the public toilets under the indoor market , surely this makes more sense . Yes the civic is a good asset but so is more than one l toilet in the cornmill[/p][/quote]Great point! How about this for a novel idea.... If a business doesn't make enough to subsidise itself completely, IT'S FLAWED. Let the paying public decide, if they don't profit without ANY subsidisation, then close it, just like any other business has to (well, unless it has backing from the Council coffers). And, as for the 8.2M "renovation" cost.... GET REAL. Mike2012
  • Score: 18

1:17pm Sun 20 Jul 14

think twice says...

Perhaps the poor amongst us could be invited to use the toilets.
At least we could say "we've been" if ever discussing the Civic with associates.
Perhaps the poor amongst us could be invited to use the toilets. At least we could say "we've been" if ever discussing the Civic with associates. think twice
  • Score: 10

2:14pm Sun 20 Jul 14

Homshaw1 says...

The council is just odd. It pays obscene salaries to people who don't perform. It closes toilets and doesn't clean the streets properly. It charges higher parking charges than neighbouring councils and charges for people dropping off an old toilet at the tip. It is luke warm in its support for our railway heritage.

It then finds money for credit unions. volunteer associations and all sorts of controversial areas.

I have no problem with helping the Civic but the amounts are really silly. £8.2 million????? That's about £80 for everyone in Darlington. Something not right there.
The council is just odd. It pays obscene salaries to people who don't perform. It closes toilets and doesn't clean the streets properly. It charges higher parking charges than neighbouring councils and charges for people dropping off an old toilet at the tip. It is luke warm in its support for our railway heritage. It then finds money for credit unions. volunteer associations and all sorts of controversial areas. I have no problem with helping the Civic but the amounts are really silly. £8.2 million????? That's about £80 for everyone in Darlington. Something not right there. Homshaw1
  • Score: 28

6:33pm Sun 20 Jul 14

Border Terrier says...

Get the toilets opened up first.
Get the toilets opened up first. Border Terrier
  • Score: 6

8:11pm Sun 20 Jul 14

JJTOP2 says...

Why bother about the Civic? Let it go, there's more entertainment to be had with the actors on these pages and the occasional Netflix or boxed set.
Why bother about the Civic? Let it go, there's more entertainment to be had with the actors on these pages and the occasional Netflix or boxed set. JJTOP2
  • Score: 1

11:21pm Sun 20 Jul 14

laughingboy51 says...

Well here we go ....................
..according to a leading? councillor a lottery heritage grant of over £6 million has been applied for.................
..it's already been knocked back twice already and the council are going to donate £650.000 towards the cost of renovation..........
......that money is coming from the sale of the Arts Centre........whenev
er that happens!

So I am going to buy Darlington 1883 FC a new ground if and when I win the Euro millions lottery
Well here we go .................... ..according to a leading? councillor a lottery heritage grant of over £6 million has been applied for................. ..it's already been knocked back twice already and the council are going to donate £650.000 towards the cost of renovation.......... ......that money is coming from the sale of the Arts Centre........whenev er that happens! So I am going to buy Darlington 1883 FC a new ground if and when I win the Euro millions lottery laughingboy51
  • Score: 3

2:23pm Mon 21 Jul 14

Spy Boy says...

"Chief executive Ada Burns will lead the fundraising drive and the council has also agreed to appoint a development and fundraising manager for the theatre - a post that will attract a salary of up to £35,000."

Another nice little earner for some pal of Bill and Ada's? This council should realise that the voters of this town are now starting to look very critically upon their very poor performance and lack of support for the wishes of the electorate. Why doe Wheelie Bin Wallis keep waffling on about applications for cash when they have been turned down so many times? The people with money to invest have already fallen foul of our useless council and only an idiot would think that they have a hope of getting their hands on this cash.

The council tried for ages to sell The Civic and couldn't find a buyer, so they are stuck with it. They seem stuck with the Arts Centre building too. They are so inept. The Arts Centre got grants and rent which very nearly paid the weekly running costs. Only about £200 were needed to break even, ( Their figures. ) so why the closure? Guess. Loads of money from the sale. This has not materialised and now the building is rotting away. When it falls down, or burns down, the cost of clearing the site will be huge. We are going to be out of pocket again. On top of that, the Arts Council paid in a load of money for upgrades just before it closed. They may want their investment back. I bet we even lose out on this deal. I would agree that we need an independent audit of what this lot are doing wrong. The quoted figures always seen totally over blown. Maybe they just add the percentage of overspend to all their projects now?
"Chief executive Ada Burns will lead the fundraising drive and the council has also agreed to appoint a development and fundraising manager for the theatre - a post that will attract a salary of up to £35,000." Another nice little earner for some pal of Bill and Ada's? This council should realise that the voters of this town are now starting to look very critically upon their very poor performance and lack of support for the wishes of the electorate. Why doe Wheelie Bin Wallis keep waffling on about applications for cash when they have been turned down so many times? The people with money to invest have already fallen foul of our useless council and only an idiot would think that they have a hope of getting their hands on this cash. The council tried for ages to sell The Civic and couldn't find a buyer, so they are stuck with it. They seem stuck with the Arts Centre building too. They are so inept. The Arts Centre got grants and rent which very nearly paid the weekly running costs. Only about £200 were needed to break even, ( Their figures. ) so why the closure? Guess. Loads of money from the sale. This has not materialised and now the building is rotting away. When it falls down, or burns down, the cost of clearing the site will be huge. We are going to be out of pocket again. On top of that, the Arts Council paid in a load of money for upgrades just before it closed. They may want their investment back. I bet we even lose out on this deal. I would agree that we need an independent audit of what this lot are doing wrong. The quoted figures always seen totally over blown. Maybe they just add the percentage of overspend to all their projects now? Spy Boy
  • Score: 12

4:29pm Mon 21 Jul 14

Homshaw1 says...

I think there is an independent audit which said DBC were providing good value for money. How they arrived at that conclusion, before banking their large audit fee, is beyond me.

The ultimate auditor is the voter and it's about time the opposition parties provided a viable alternative
I think there is an independent audit which said DBC were providing good value for money. How they arrived at that conclusion, before banking their large audit fee, is beyond me. The ultimate auditor is the voter and it's about time the opposition parties provided a viable alternative Homshaw1
  • Score: 9

6:57pm Mon 21 Jul 14

Bright And Cheerful says...

I don't know a lot of the history of this issue :-) could some shows that were once put on at the Arts Centre be moved to the Civic? Or again more use of the Dolphin Centre? Or perhaps this were the Majestic project(which is independent)could bridge the gap on price and variety?
I don't know a lot of the history of this issue :-) could some shows that were once put on at the Arts Centre be moved to the Civic? Or again more use of the Dolphin Centre? Or perhaps this were the Majestic project(which is independent)could bridge the gap on price and variety? Bright And Cheerful
  • Score: 1

1:37pm Fri 25 Jul 14

cholmes005 says...

best of luck to the theatre. Always enjoyed what I've seen there. Mind £8 million to refurbish it, has someone got figures wrong? Not sad about arts centre. what a waste of money with over priced drinks, awful sound and over priced tickets
best of luck to the theatre. Always enjoyed what I've seen there. Mind £8 million to refurbish it, has someone got figures wrong? Not sad about arts centre. what a waste of money with over priced drinks, awful sound and over priced tickets cholmes005
  • Score: 1

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