Two of Wales’ best-known cultural venues – St David’s Hall and the New Theatre – are under threat as part of a huge cuts programme proposed by Cardiff council.
The authority’s Labour administration, which has to make savings of £50m this year alone, says it can no longer afford to subsidise the two buildings.
Russell Goodway, the council’s cabinet member for finance, said: “We are trying to find an outside provider who would be prepared to take the venues over.
“I am more optimistic about finding a company to take on the New Theatre than I am about St David’s Hall. We are talking to Live Nation, the firm that runs the Motorpoint Arena, about the possibility of their taking on the New Theatre.
“We are also talking to the Wales Millennium Centre about the possibility of taking on the shows currently put on in St David’s Hall. What’s important is bringing people into the city to see the shows, rather than the buildings they see them in.”
St David’s Hall, which opened in 1982, can accommodate an audience of 2,000 while the New Theatre, which has a capacity of 1,144, celebrated its centenary in 2006.
St David’s Hall is currently subsidised by around £1.2m a year, with the New Theatre getting a subsidy of around £800,000. Under the budget proposals, savings of £530,000 are hoped for in 2014/15.
The cuts, which were formally submitted for consultation to a full council meeting last night, affect all the authority’s departments. Altogether it is planned to lose 700 full-time equivalent posts.
Asked whether the council would be able to retain its policy of no compulsory redundancies, Mr Goodway said: “Although we’ve officially had that policy for at least 20 years, it’s a bit of a fiction. Jobs have had to go. When people have been offered the choice of taking voluntary redundancy at enhanced rates or taking the statutory minimum, they opt for the voluntary package.
“But they didn’t have the option of staying, so saying it’s not a compulsory redundancy is a bit of a nonsense.”
The majority of the savings will come from cuts in overheads. The direct impact on service delivery will be £9.2m.
I can't get upset over this when nothing was done to stop the likes of the Point being closed.
You can't get upset over the potential loss of one of Wales' finest cultural assets, a truly internationally renowned concert hall, performing home of the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and home of the world's greatest classical singing competition, simply because a small (but lovely and loved) venue couldn't afford their soundproofing obligations? OK. Personally I think it would be a tragedy for the city with genuine implications for some of our finest musical institutions and would be a body blow for Cardiff's international cultural reputation. But there you go.
Absolutely appalling. Cultural assets that took decades to create are being destroyed almost overnight, in the pursuit of an utterly pointless and futile "austerity" agenda (which Jantra enthusiastically supports).
Don't forget that RCT wants to close the Muni in Pontypridd, the Aberdare Museum and over half its libraries.
South Wales will be a wasteland in a few years, our "cultural" life will revolve around half-empty shopping malls and drive-thru McDonalds.
The article seems very strange to me. The quotes from Councillor Goodway are very blunt and an honest, to an extent that borders on foolish from a politician. Did someone leak what he was saying to executive committee rather than it being an interview?
Anyway, I agree that if they close these venues, it would be a real loss to Cardiff, and indeed, Wales. However, I'm not sure it will come to that. I think it could be politicking - in 2 ways. One is to present a worst-case scenario to the population and then hope to gain credit when they find a way to "save" these venues. The second is to try to get money from other bodies (e.g. the Welsh Govt) to help fund these venues, or to shock the venues into becoming more commercially-minded. New Theatre in particular really should be making money.
Councils in England have had to make cuts on the scale now being required in Wales, at the same time as having a council tax freeze. That has inevitably affected services, but they have been able to do it without a complete loss of cultural life. Its involved upping charges for things like planning apps, pest and environmental services, social services etc, and spinning off a lot of leisure and cultural services to third parties. That probably is more successful in London and other major conurbations (Southwark Leisure, a chain of gyms based at council venues charges £48 a month, which is viable in London but not elsewhere I imagine), but there is scope for investigating this option in Wales (although it seems not to have worked in Denbighshire!).
Full details of across-the-board cuts
Truly saddening. Cardiff has a few theatres, but not as many as Sheffield, and certainly not as many as London, so we must hold on to our treasures whilst we can. Whilst I don't like the look of St David's, I have certainly seen some spectacular shows there, and the same can be said for the New Theatre, which has wonderful (early Art Deco?) architecture, and is practically a Cardiff institution.
Tell me, we all are very much aware that cuts are being made throughout the entirety of the United Kingdom, and in pretty much every sector, some of us agree with it, others don't, but does anyone actually believe that the budgets for public funding will ever be what they were once we finally wade ourselves out of all this austerity?
There are many things I want but can't afford! "Live within your means" springs to mind!
Jantra. I think people would agree to disagree on which venues are most culturally/socially important.
But I think most people would see the following for what it it is: bordering on nonsense.
"we can't pick and choose which venues are worth saving just because some are perceived to have greater artistic merit than others. either we appreciate all venues or require none."
That is exactly what we must do. It is the cultural equivalent of deciding which services to support/protect and which to cut, based upon their effectiveness, importance, and need. We expect the council to spend our money wisely and make best use of its limited resources. In an age of cuts that means prioritising spending on those areas where it does the greatest good. And in culture that means making some judgement on what venues/activities add most to the cultural life of the city, and the economic contribution of that cultural life.
I don't see St Davids Hall being scrapped any time soon, it's far too important a venue in terms of the type of building and facilities it has, and the type of shows it puts on. It would be utterly crazy to just let it go.
The New Theatre and its future I'm not so sure about? I imagine the opening up of the millennium centre took away a large portion of potential revenue? In all the years I spent in Cardiff I never went once there (new theatre), so is it any good?
Cardiff does have capital status but even so, for a city of its size it does seem to maybe have (literally) one major performance venue too many? I mean the number and scale of the venues is on par with much bigger cities like Leeds, Nottingham etc.
Not that I'm saying any should close of course, just that it's going to be a struggle in the next few years.
With reference to 'pick and choose' I wasn't referencing limited budgets. My angle was that there were few tearsshed when the point closed but in my opinion its more of a cultural venue as it attracts and nurtures grass roots musicians, now people are up in arms regarding st David's yet no one batted an eyelid when a smaller venue that doesn't cater for the classical musicians is under threat.
Most that can happen at st David's can happen at wmc (ditto new theatre/ Sherman) yet the point closing has left a huge gap in the Cardiff venue offering.
Just to reiterate, my point wasn't about budgets and capital rationing, it was about the outrage regarding venues potentially closing that won't leave a hole in cardiffs proposition whereas the council single handed my ruined cardiffs gigging circuit offering.
I didn't realise either were publicly-owned/run. Is it common for cities to have two publicly-funded venues in the city centre?
Of course, the loss - or decline - of any cultural institution would be sad, but as the Council are forced to make cuts, these are probably things that can be offloaded, in the expectation that a trust or other organisation can take up some of the costs.
"Libraries gave us power, then work came and made us free."
Right out of luck with both of those now, aren't we?
actually, you don't need a personal internet subscription. you can access it on a public computer for free I believe in one of those big buildings that they used to put books in on shelves.... what were they called now....
oh yes, a library... oh.
I would prefer to keep the New Theatre rather than St David's Hall as it's more like a traditional theatre, and has a smaller capacity so can accommodate smaller productions that the WMC can't cater for.
St David's Hall has seemed redundant to me since the WMC opened and the Motorpoint Arena started attracting smaller concerts.
When it comes to the arts, Cardiff is afraid, very afraid. It is so typical of our national psyche - we are terrified of upsetting the old folk who are most likely to turn out and vote. Also, what has always infuriated me is that for the whole of August every year - in the peak of the holiday season - both St David's Hall and the New Theatre have been SHUT. St David's Hall has magnificent acoustics. The New Theatre is quaint, simple, but intimate. Let them stand or fall on their own merits.
There must be many templates in existence which similar such venues have replicated to keep themselves open during a downturn in arts funding?
Such threats are perennial issues.
The New Theatre must be capable of being sold to an organisation such as the Ambassador Theatre Group which owns a load of theatres around the country? If that deficit could be 'saved' then the subsidy for St David's might be more palatable to swallow.
St David's Hall always seems to have a lot of shows on. One thing I've noticed about it is that all the communal areas are run 'in house' (and, to boot, are actually rather drab looking these days).
Is it feasible to 'let go' of some of the internal space to possible rent paying franchisees such as the ubiquitous coffee chains and/or restaurants/ bars therby reducing the deficit further?
Or is that all too 'airy fairy' to work in practice?
There yer go - Tim and I have solved the problem already!
Now then, let's get onto the national deficit reduction plan
I think you're right, and it is somewhat disconcerting that the council propose closing central library on Wednesdays to save money. This is meant to be the flagship library and after costing however millions of £ (though not sure if this was council money or paid for by SD2 developers) seems a bit of a waste. But at the same time backs up your view that libraries aren't as widely used as decades ago. How long before a planning app goes in to convert the central library into student accommodation?
I think St Davids. And The new theater. Aswell as our library's need to diversify. Coffee shop/internet cafe are obvious idea's but thinking outside the box while risky might save/produce more money. There could be advertising space utilising St davids hall and New theaters exterior.
There are other ways we could save money. Turning off every other street light. Heat pumps save alot of energy especially during the summer. The roof of st davids hall could produce solar power. Ect.
A combination of the proposed BID levy. Not cleaning the city center untill the monday after big events. And the closure of St davids. New theater. will see more units empty in the city center and reduce rent.
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