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Council hedges bets on Brewhouse

Somerset West and Taunton Council have committed one more year of funding to the Brewhouse Theatre. After a sustained campaign and a petition that has gathered over 2,000 signatures, the Brewhouse have been looking to secure their future.

With original staged theatre increasingly rare in Somerset, the Brewhouse is one of the last theatres to commit to regular theatrical performance. A meeting of the Council tomorrow evening was originally due to discuss the future of the Thatre.

Instead this afternoon SW&T released a statement as follows:

Somerset West and Taunton has confirmed its continued financial support for a key member of Taunton’s artistic and cultural life. The Council will continue to fund the Brewhouse Theatre’s £132,000 a year subsidy, as well as paying to maintain the building.

Cllr Benet Allen, portfolio holder for Culture said “Having a theatre and performance space in the centre of Taunton is important. We’ve made sure the Brewhouse will continue to get the same level of funding as it does it now. The Theatre has asked for additional £1.2m over five years, but at this time, a request for such a large sum can only be approved after we’ve looked at the needs of the community right across the council area.

However the future of theatre in Tainton remains under threat. No one can doubt that the council will do something but that hinges on the Firepool question. The council are still looking at their options. Firepool may yet get a massive stadium for sport and performance. But that will be next to useless for theatre. It is highly debatable as to whether it will draw major acts away from Cardiff and Bristol, but that is another matter.

And anyone who doubts that a theatre might not be the priority with the possibility of a massive vanity project next door, should read the rest of the SW&T statement:

No-one can question our commitment to the arts, but with so many competing financial priorities we are having to make a number of tough decisions. To redevelop the current site would cost council tax-payers tens of millions of pounds on top of the subsidy. While we wouldn’t rule anything out at this early stage, it’s important people understand the size of the sums involved and why decisions like this need time and careful consideration.”

It will be interesting if money if not available for a theatre, to see if it is available for a stadium. Time will tell.

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