Tamworth Arts Centre : History
Tamworth Herald– 03/01/75
A Tamworth councillor has attacked plans to pay more than £8,000 a year for staff at the town’s new arts centre.
Ratepayer Councillor Bill Holloway said the scheme was turning out to be “terribly expensive”. But he failed to win support for his demand that staff costs should be cut by at least 50 per cent.
The Borough Council’s Leisure Activities Committee had been told that the net cost of running the Church Street centre for the first year was estimated at £27,470 – including £8,100 for a manager, caretaker and cleaner.
Tamworth Arts Advisory Council has asked the Borough Council to take over the running of the centre in the former Baptist Chapel, once used as a town theatre. Conversion work is costing £40,000.
Councillor Holloway said “We are not living in normal times and when ratepayers realise how much money we are spending, particularly on staff. I think there will be questions we will not be able to answer adequately.
“I am right behind this project, but there are other ways of running it and still having a useful and efficiently-organised arts centre”.
The Arts Advisory Council receiving a Borough Council grant of £8,750, should be asked to contribute more than a nominal sum Councillor Holloway said.
A report by the Borough Council’s chief officers said the advisory council’s request did not mean there had been any loss of interest in the project by its member.
It was felt the centre would be fully used if a manager was appointed to promote community arts activities and encourage voluntary groups. The centre could then be open to public use for up to 16 hours a day. This might include activities such as daytime group, exhibitions and evening entertainments. This would also prevent the centre being “monopolised” by the stronger arts groups.
Borough Recreation and Amenities Officer Mr. Brian Moore said that in appointing a manager, the council would be looking for a graduate with arts centre experience and “missionary zeal”.
Councillor Alan McDonald suggested that the advisory council’s grant should be reduced to take account of the running and supervision costs.
“They should be prepared to receive less knowing they would have someone in a professional capacity to turn to.” he commented.
The costs have yet to be considered by the Borough Council’s policy-making resources Planning Committee.
Applications for grant aid to help offset loan charges have been made to Staffordshire County Council and the Department of the Environment.
A council-sponsored competition with prizes of £10 and £5 is to be held for the design of a nameboard using the Tamworth Arts Centre title.
Tamworth Herald – 30/05/75
Sixteen-year-old Jill Fawcett is the winner of Tamworth Art Centre competition for a nameboard over the doorway of the new arts centre to be opened in September.
She collects a £10 prize but her design – done in aluminium in computer print style – will not be adopted without modification.
Competition judges ruled that none of the 20 entries was entirely suitable. They felt that even the best of the bunch was not sufficiently legible.
Of Jill’s entry they said that whilst not sufficiently legible in the form submitted, the idea was felt to be trong and to fill the space effectively.
Jill of “four Winds” Austrey Lane, Newton Regis, will have her “slightly modernistic” prize-winning entry exhibited in the foyer of the municipal offices in Corporation Street.
The Arts Council is to employ an architect to build up Miss Fawcett’s original or design a new one based on her idea.
Even when the revision has been completed and the sign set up it is possible it will be pulled down again to make way for an entirely new design created by one of the student using the centre.
A council spokesman said the competition rules expressly stated the winning entry would not necessarily be used.
“The competition was run in order to arouse the artistic talents of Tamworthians.
“I do not hink the fact of not using the winner’s work will stifle the interest created.”
There were joint runners-up – Mr. K.D. McCormack of 23 Wordsworth Avenue, Leyfields and Mr. K.M. gibbons of 6 Fontenaye Road, Coton Green Tamworth.
Both their entries in the view of the judges Mr. D.H.V. Gronow, secretary-treasurer of the Arts Advisory Council, architect Mr. A.T.N. Teague and Councillor Ron Cook, chairman of the borough Council leisure activities committee – contained useful ideas but did not seem quite striking enough.
Tamworth Herald – 05/09/75
Tamworth Arts Advisory Council has received a massive financial boon of nearly £5,000 to help get the town’s new Arts Centre off the ground.
The money came from the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation – an international organisation for the promotion of the arts, education and social welfare.
It is to be used to provide a stage rostra, stage lighting, a sound system and a piano.
Tamworth Herald – 19/09/75
“I don’t want the arts centre to become some sort of mausoleum where people merely go…”
The words are those of Dave Armour, the articulate 29-year-old manager with high-hopes for Tamworth’s multi-purpose Arts Centre due to open in two months time.
|Dave Armour, Tamworth Arts Centre Manager
Dave comes to Tamworth with a wealth of work on the stage and experience in the arts gained from his time working in northern theatres. He has plans to use his experience to it’s full extent in Tamworth.
Dave’s last job was with Knowsley Metropolitan Council on Merseyside where he was attached to a play leadership scheme for holidaying school children.
That, he says, was “mostly a six week summer job,” but from it sprang his interest in community theatre, developed as he toured round the area presenting plays and entertainments for the youngsters.
He joined an amateur theatre group in Skelmersdale, and organised events for pensioners with the help of the town’s development corporation.
What of his job at Tamworth – a town he had never heard of before, which sounded to him like “a nice suburban Midlands town”?
“The centre welcomes everyone who wants to perform, and I envisage every part of the building being used to its full extent.” He says.
“I’d dearly love to see it thronged with people, but many do tend to shy away from the theatre and the arts generally because they think it is ‘middle class.”
The Arts Centre, housed in the old Baptists Church in Church Street, is scheduled to open sometime in November. It contains an auditorium capable of seating up to 100 people and other smaller rooms suitable for small group meetings, musical recitals and exhibitions.
But Dave, as well as managing the building, is hoping to stimulate badly-needed new developments in Tamworth’s art world, by encouraging societies and groups to go out more to the people.
“I would like to see plays and shows presented here at the Arts Centre and then taken out to clubs and pubs in the district. I’m sure people would take to this and would have much more of an interest if the theatre was taken to them,” he says.
Dave’s plans are certainly different – at least for Tamworth. But he is confident they will work.
“We are capable of catering for all types, and I think we will be successful once the centre gets on its feet,” he says.
Tamworth Herald – 10/10/75
Tamworth’s new arts centre may be a temporary cinema after the Palace closes its doors for the last time on November 1.
Council officials are toying with the idea of using the new centre in Church Street for public film shows while a new cinema is built in the town.
Facilities at the arts centre which opens on November 14th include a file projector purchased with a £650 grant from a charitable trust.
The Palace Cinema which had an average of 2,000 film goers a week is to be demolished to make way for the new Ankerside shopping centre. Plans for a new cinema to be built on land off Spinning School and Gungate are currently being drawn up. The council said that “every effort” will be being made to complete the new cinema by the end of March next year.
At a meeting of the council’s Leisure Activities Committee, Borough Recreation and Amenities Officer Mr. Brian Moore said: We are committed to provide some form of public cinema, and the arts centre would be an obvious option.”
Councillor Ron Cook, the committee chairman, suggested that the 100 seat auditorium could be used for Saturday morning shows until the new cinema was completed.
He said that he thought that the Palace closure would be an opportunity for local film societies to be revived, helping to fill the gap.
Tamworth Herald –10/10/75
Hire charges drawn up for Tamworth’s arts centre could turn the building into a “white elephant” a councillor has claimed.
Councillor Eric Johnson said: “Many groups might go to the nearest pub instead. It would be a lot cheaper”.
Speaking at a meeting of the Borough Council’s Leisure Activities Committee, he claimed there would also be difficulties because of space restrictions. He pointed out that drama groups needed somewhere to make stage sets, and somewhere to store them.
Councillor Johnson, a Borough Council representative on Tamworth Arts Advisory Council, said: “I can’t see a lot of groups using the centre as we would like.
“Unless we are very careful some of them will not survive.”
But the room charges were defended by Borough Recreation and Amenities Officer Mr. Brian Moore. “I think the facilities will be well worth the money”, he said.
The centre, a former Baptist chapel, has cost a total of £67,500 to convert and equip.
Income in the first full year is estimated at £5,000 – compared with running costs of £14,000. This figure includes loan charges on the Borough Council’s £50,000 share of the bill, and on the £60,000 it paid to buy the building.
Groups will be charged £1.50 an hour for hiring the auditorium for rehearsals, meetings and club nights, and £2 an hour for public performances and social functions.
But groups within the town’s Arts Advisory Council will get concessions.
The Arts Council is to discuss a proposal that is should pay a fixed fee of £900 a year for the use of all rooms in the centre on three evenings a week for rehearsals and meetings. The full hiring rate would be charged for public events.
The annual fee represents a reduction of about 40 per cent on charges for casual users.
A report by the Borough Council’s chief officers said the pricing policy was designed to recoup a certain amount of the annual running costs of the centre without pricing organisations out of the building.
The centre would primarily provide a permanent home for many of the present arts groups in the town, the report stated.
And there would be facilities for the formation of new organisations formed by centre members or as an off-shoot of promotions organised by the manager, such as folk music groups or poetry-reading circles.
Individual as well as group membership is to be encouraged. “If the centre is to achieve the impact such a building should have on the community, it is important that the public should be encouraged to feel some sort of affinity to it,” the chief officers stressed.
Daytime use of the centre would provide an ideal recreation facility for pensioners, young wives’ groups and the unemployed as well as extra teaching facilities for local schools wishing to use the building for arts and craft classes.
Group activities in the evening could include a film club, folk club, music, arts and crafts and record classes, and writers’ circles.
Tamworth arts organisations are now being asked to contribute to a fortnight’s festivities which will follow the opening of the centre by Mr. Bruce Grocott, Tamworth’s MP on November 21.
On November 21 and 22 the Pentabus touring company of West Midlands Arts will be launching the programme with performances of “The Charlie Chaplin Show” – a lighthearted dramatisation of the star’s life.
Tamworth Herald – 14/11/75
A music, singing and dancing licence was granted to Tamworth arts centre in Church Street by the borough’s licensing committee on Tuesday.
The licence will run from 10a.m. to 2a.m. from Monday to Friday in each week and from 10a.m. to 11.45p.m. on Saturday. Musical entertainment will be allowed on Sundays from 2p.m. to 10p.m.
Similar facilities were granted for the Wilnecote community centre.
The Tamworth Singers will be featured with the Amington Band at a concert to be given in the centre on the evening of Tuesday December 2.