A document leaked to the Worthing Herald has recently revealed the worrying level of uncertainty facing the town’s theatres. Worthing’s Connaught Theatre could be closed next January, while the Ritz Digital Cinema and Assembly Hall both look set to suffer from stringent government cuts.
The Connaught Theatre is at risk of being sold for redevelopment (or demolition) if no private bidders come forward to take over the venue, despite outrage from the local community.
According to council leader Paul Yallop, the town authorities spend £3,000 a day on subsidising the theatres, and can no longer afford the £1.2 million per year that it amounts to. Worthing’s Assembly Hall also faces closure; the live music venue could be saved if a new, more sustainable use, is found.
The Pavilion Theatre seems to be in a slightly less hazardous situation, with plans to upgrade it with 1,000 tiered seats and improved acoustics.
However, recent developments have seen theatre consultant, Jon Woodley, come forward to spearhead a local campaign to save the Connaught Theatre. The 26-year-old is striving to form a not-for-profit registered charity to run the venue, and possibly some of the town’s other entertainment facilities.
With an online petition already gaining 4143 signatures, and the local media throwing their support behind the campaign, the future hangs in the balance of the ‘Big Society’ and the people of Worthing.
If the theatres are not saved, the town stands to lose huge amounts of tourism income, and other hotels, restaurants and businesses would feel the impact too.
Opened as the Picturedrome cinema in 1914, the Connaught was established under the same name we know today in 1935 when the original Connaught Theatre was rehomed. A rare example of a cinema being converted into a theatre, the Connaught has continued to serve as the home of performing arts in Worthing, and a thriving hub for the town.