CURRENT PERFORMING SPACES IN DERBY
Rupert Christiansen wrote in the Daily Telegraph on 12th December 2011;
"..Derby, perhaps the only city in the country still lacking a decent sized theatre with a stage, fly-tower and orchestra pit capable of accommodating the bigger touring shows and musicals". How does this relate to the ambition for Derby to be a City of Culture? How does it relate to the creation of a City capable of attracting high level business and industry?
Derby has a range of facilities for drama, music and dance starting with the village halls and churches to the Guildhall and Darwin Suite (200 seats), Deda for dance, Derby Theatre (550 seats) and the Large Hall of the Assembly Rooms (2,000 seats). In the near future the proposed Velodrome could provide a venue for 4,000 for the very large pop concerts. But missing is the larger sized, fully equipped theatre. Analysis of size (seating capacity) over a wide range of theatres in private and public ownership shows that theatres of 1000+ seats can exist without subsidy (although subsidy does help!). The question is whether Derby would be capable of supporting such a theatre.
It must be borne in mind that the Assembly Rooms is in urgent need of renovation within the next five years and that any major reconstruction work could force extended closure and loss of clientele. Also that Derby Theatre is entering a new phase of operation independent of Derby Live and major Arts Council funding so its performance in the long term is not certain. The development of a large theatre would require support by the City Council in all regards on the grounds that it is a necessary part of the continuing development of the City. It would require a positive decision from the community free from entrenched and personal views.
On the basis of recent developments the cost of a new theatre would lie between £50 and £75million. The redevelopment of the Hippodrome site on the other hand would cost half that of the new build and if the adjoining car park was included in the site then the range of development options increases. By March 2012 the Options Appraisal on the possible uses for the Hippodrome commissioned by the Derby Hippodrome Restoration Trust should go a long way to answering some of these questions.