Camberley Theatre is in disgrace!

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The following e-mail is ‘doing the rounds’ of Camberley at the moment:

“We write on behalf of 200 members of Camberley WI.  Founded in 2012 we are now the third largest WI in the country and have a very long waiting list.  Our members’ ages range from 29 to 82 which is definitely all inclusive!

Our ‘home’, since our inception, has been in the Ian Goodchild Centre, part of the Camberley Theatre, where we meet once a month for two hours of inspirational speakers, hands-on craft demos and sessions and the inevitable tea and cake.  This ideal situation looks as though it is coming to an end.  We were shocked to learn recently that the cost of the hire of the hall has risen by almost 200% with immediate effect.  This makes it financially impossible for us, as a charity, to stay there. Apparently the reason for this sudden and draconian rise is that Surrey Heath Borough Council are withdrawing their subsidy from Camberley Theatre.  It saddens us to think this inevitably removes the community element of the venue.  If one of the largest WIs in the UK can no longer afford to hire the hall we would imagine that other groups are also priced out of the available rooms.

Reluctantly we must search for another venue, and after intensive research we find that the size of our group forces us to move outside the centre of Camberley.  Not only will we lose our central location (and SHBC will be losing at least £80 worth of parking fees once a month!) but it is shocking that SHBC seems to be no longer supportive of community groups in the town.”

We hadn’t heard before about the remarkable growth of the local WI to become third-largest in the country in only a few years.  That’s amazing.

But, several ‘political’ issues also strike us.  Firstly, the borough council’s subsidy of the theatre has been contentious for years.  ‘GetSurrey’ reproduces an article written in 2004, which says:  “Liberal Democrat councillors have branded The Camberley Theatre ‘an excessive drain’ on Surrey Heath Council’s resources and called for an end to its subsidies.”  The argument even then was that, though subsidising the arts is an accepted practice in a society like ours, Surrey Heath is a wealthy borough; most of its residents do not need a subsidy in order to be able to afford a theatre ticket, and the money could be better used in helping the minority who are in real need.

Secondly, the Ian Goodchild Centre lost its name a year or so ago.  It now tends to be called, rather boringly, the ‘function room’.  This reflects, we believe, the borough council’s intent to generate more income from the facility.  ‘Profit’ is the name of the game, for better or worse.

The third thought is that it’s not many months since local residents elected the current councillors.  What has happened in that short time to turn them into villains?  Well, nothing, of course.  But we do, in effect, have a one-party council, and that’s not good, whatever the council’s political complexion.  We need a decent opposition so that council policies are challenged properly.

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11 thoughts on “Camberley Theatre is in disgrace!

  1. Shocking, and as a member of another W I group my heart goes out to Camberley W I members . This new group has grown so quickly. I would love a breakdown of the business rates collected each year in Surrey Heath and another breakdown showing where the monies actually go…too much to ask I guess? Mr Gove needs to get involved here.

    • I can sort of answer you, Shirley. Business rates are set by HMG. The local council collects them but has to pass the money on. The council is given some of the money back, but in Surrey Heath it’s not a lot.

  2. Hi I guess 1 in 3 of the population voted blue, around here 1000’s will have automatically voted blue for no other reason than it is what they always have done.
    The ineffectiveness of SHBC in so many areas is as you say down to a complete lack of local democracy.

    No drivers to make them perform.

    Their only solutions to cover losses is to raise prices . The A30 frontage through Camberley still looks like it belongs to some desolate Town, not a supposedly prosperous shire town. It’s been talked about for years but they never doing anything.
    Top 100 town, no chance more likely to become more like Aldershot.( Exit M&S.)
    It could / should be so much better.

  3. The Clue is in the name “The Camberley Theatre’, another aspirational vanity project from our deluded council. When it was ‘The Civic Hall’ it better reflected its position in the town – a large, multi-functional building that could be hired for community events at a reasonable cost.
    The ninnies who develop the policies and believe that they can only measure their success by attaining ‘top 100 town status’ for Camberley simply haven’t grasped that the geography of the Borough means that many of their actual residents will never consider Camberley as the leisure, cultural or shopping destination – the rural part will gravitate towards Woking and Guildford.
    But, election after election the voters return ‘representatives’ who sport a blue rosette without questioning if they’re actually up to the job of shaping our community for the years to come – and yes, we are all reaping the poor harvest!

    • I could not agree more with everything you say Sarah. This idiotic ambition to make Camberley a top 100 town is delusional. Quite why people mindlessly vote Conservatives onto the Council time and again, despite their abysmal record, is baffling.

      • I do agree with the Eye’s original comment “We need a decent opposition…”

        The reason “why people mindlessly vote Conservatives onto the Council time and again” is quite simply because of the shambolic state of the main opposition parties, who the voting public obviously believe would be worse.

        I believe there is the need for some sort of serious local independent grouping (not UKIP!) as is successful in some other parts of Surrey and elsewhere. .

      • Of course, a good start would be to separate local politics from national politics. And it’s probably a more realistic aim than trying to do what the SDP did thirty-something years ago, and failed. Maybe this is something for the next election; start looking at the borough and county policies and develop better alternatives. (A new local party that simply ‘knocks’ the status quo is a waste of space!) Ok dear, am I suggesting that we canvass from door to door – ringing door bells, delivering leaflets (beware the silent dog that waits ’till your fingers are inside the letterbox) and all that. Been there, got the T-shirt, it’s fun but hard work. Surely I’m too old now…..

    • ‘Top 100 town was lunacy, Sarah. How anyone in ‘authority’ could propose it beats me. It was either an inept attempt to ‘sell’ the town, or it stemmed from a total lack of realism.

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