Miss. Georgie Matthews wants a community theatre in Beaconsfield.
Mrs. Barbara Skrabski wants a community theatre in Beaconsfield.
Miss. C Vale wants a community theatre in Beaconsfield.
Mrs. Denise Lathom-sharp wants a community theatre in Beaconsfield.
Mrs. Nicola Fairbrother wants a community theatre in Beaconsfield.
Mr. Tim Pemberton wants a community theatre in Beaconsfield.
Mrs. Michaela Matza wants a community theatre in Beaconsfield.
Mrs. Sally Harrison wants a community theatre in Beaconsfield.
Mr. James Aitken wants a community theatre in Beaconsfield.
Ms. Elizabeth Edwards wants a community theatre in Beaconsfield.
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Existing Venues and ResourcesThere have been a number of venues that have been used by the various groups over the years. All of them are shared use venues and therefore provide various challenges that need to be overcome by the various groups.
The Curzon CentreThe Curzon Centre currently has the largest stage within Beaconsfield and the largest auditorium. It is currently licensed for audience numbers in the region of 250 to 300.
It is the main home of BOS and YT.
The stage has small wings; however there is no orchestra pit and no raked seating. There are also no dressing rooms. As it is a council owned building, it is governed by various rules as it is designated a youth centre and managed by a management company.
There is also no technical box at the back of the hall, and when a production by either YT or BOS are in residence, a number of other user groups are relocated, cancelled or inconvenienced. This is currently up to 8 weeks a year. YT has to store much of their equipment in a container on some spare ground in the car park of The Curzon Centre. Also parts of the centre need to be cleared every day to allow other groups to use the venue, resulting in a considerable volume of work for the production team and cast.
In addition to very little technical equipment, there is no lighting and sound equipment within the centre and therefore any group performing has to hire and bring in all this equipment, as well as any scenery and costumes that may be required.
Surprisingly YT does not fall into the youth centre remit even though it is made up of anywhere between 50 and 80 ten to nineteen year olds.
The benefit of the Curzon Centre is the size of the stage, it being the largest stage in Beaconsfield available to general hirers.
Ownership and futureThe Curzon Centre is owned by Bucks County Council and has very recently been taken over by a management company run by local people who have an investment in The Curzon Centre.
Its future is no way guaranteed and is designated as a youth centre.
All funding raised by the Curzon Centre is required to be directed to Youth Services and maintaining the fabric of the building. Therefore there is likely to be minimal improvements in the theatrical aspects of the centre.
The Beacon CentreThe Beacon Centre is located in Holtspur and the stage is the old stage from when the site was Holtspur Secondary School. Although the rest of the site was cleared, the main hall and stage were retained and modified. However due to the structure of the building, the stage is very small and has severe limitations to producing theatre. It has no wings on one side and reasonable wings the other. It does have two dressing rooms, but these are small and one has a toilet straight off it – not nice in itself for the rest of the cast.
There is retractable raked seating that can accommodate just over 200, however the seating is considerably off centre from the stage, and can cause sight-line problems for certain members of the audience.
Also the dressing rooms are used as treatment rooms when not being used as dressing rooms. Access to the centre is limited and relatively costly, although all amateur groups are entitled to a community rate.
The Beacon Centre is predominately a sports centre, and each time a theatrical production is resident, the existing regular classes are inconvenienced. Also there is very little ongoing investment in the theatrical aspects of the centre, as this is not core to the business of the centre, but is a requirement of the council. This also means that there is no real understanding of theatre by the management and staff of the centre. This is by no means their fault – theatrical knowledge is specialist and has its own requirements and the management of The Beacon Centre employ people specialists in their area of expertise – that of sport - not in theatre that is minor in time and income to the overall running of the centre.
BOS cannot use The Beacon Centre for several reasons. The cast size of an average BOS production would overwhelm the dressing rooms and there is nowhere for an orchestra to be located. The cast and crew of a BOS production is in the region of 30 to 50 individuals, where more than 15 in the dressing rooms is claustrophobic.
YT does occasionally use the Beacon Centre, but generally for its older, small cast productions. Again the logistics of the cast sizes of YT preclude the general use of the Beacon Centre for many of its productions.
As far as the audience experience is concerned, the foyer has been designed for the processing and transfer of attendees of the sports centre to book, pay and then commence their sport in the designated areas of the venue. However, when used as a theatre an audience requires a large area available for use for the hour prior to start of a show and during any intervals that are required by the production. The current foyer is not really suitable for this, particularly when sports users are fighting their way through the theatre audience. Although the Beacon Centre has a bar, it is frankly small, cramped and uninviting and down difficult stairs for disabled or infirm audience members and the foyer becomes over full and unpleasant when the audience is even half full. In winter it can be cold as there is no vestibule to protect the audience from the elements when the doors are open.
Ownership and futureThe Beacon Centre is owned by South Bucks District Council (SBDC) and SBDC have a requirement that they support theatre within their region. However the Beacon Centre is now 17 years old and the stage itself is probably over fifty years old. SBDC, as with many councils, is under great financial pressure and there is no guarantee that there will be continued funding for the arts – many councils are cutting arts funding. The fabric of the theatre is showing its age, and the raked seating, although safe is very tatty and when loaded with audience makes the most annoying sounds during a performance. All major investment in the fabric of the building over the last 17 years has been on the sports side of the operation. The technical equipment is only replaced when it is broken or worn out beyond use, and then only if funding allows so there is no ongoing investment in the theatrical aspects of the centre. The management of The Beacon Centre prioritize investment in the sports aspect of the centre.
Hall BarnHall Barn is listed here as it has been the performance home of CSC for many years. However Hall Barn is privately owned and a purpose built auditorium is created each summer to cover the audience whilst the actors perform outdoors.
It is therefore not generally available for other group use.
SchoolsThere are various school halls with stages, but they tend to be available only during school holidays. This is a bad time for many theatre groups as various parents etc. are away with their children, impacting both actors, technicians and audience numbers.
The Theatre at Wilton ParkThere is an existing building that has been used as a theatre on the Wilton Park site. This was used by BOS in the late 1960s/early 1970s. In style it is a multi-purpose hall with a small stage and a couple of small dressing rooms. It was last used by any of the groups in 2001 as part of a Beaconsfield fundraising day on behalf of the NSPCC held at Wilton Park. There are very few theatrical facilities (only the stage and dressing rooms - but they were being used as storerooms) and there was minimal other equipment.
There are actually no redeeming features to the facilities currently on site - other than the larger site has hosted theatrical endeavours in the past - and we will strive to make Wilton Park the home to theatrical activities in Beaconsfield in the future.
As with the Beacon Centre, trying to retain existing facilities is likely to be expensive and not actually provide what the theatrical groups actually require.
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