Source: Wales – City of Cardiff
Cardiff’s New Theatre is a step closer to finding a new operator which will safeguard the future of one of the city’s favourite cultural institutions for years to come.
Some of the most influential promoters and venue operators in the industry have bid to take over the running of the 110-year-old theatre and, following a rigorous selection process, Cardiff Council’s Cabinet will now be asked to approve the selection of a new tenant who will run the theatre for the next 25 years.
Cabinet member for Culture and Leisure, Cllr Peter Bradbury, said: “The New Theatre is one of Cardiff’s most important cultural assets, but for many years now it has cost the Council around £500,000 a year to keep the doors open.
“We knew we had to change the way the theatre was run to safeguard its future. We’ve been exploring the potential to rent the building to an established theatre operator which would ensure the New Theatre continues to bring some of the best shows to Cardiff for many years to come while reducing the Council’s £500,000 annual subsidy.
“I’m delighted to reveal that not only have we spoken with some fantastic theatre operators, but we are very close to a deal which would see the theatre operated without Council subsidy. In fact the Council could receive a rent of £6.75m over the period of the lease, money which can be reinvested in the structure of the building ensuring the New Theatre’s doors stay open for many years to come.
“This deal is great for the theatre, great for Cardiff’s theatre goers and great for all the New Theatre’s staff whose jobs will be safeguarded by this agreement.”
The Council’s multi-disciplinary team of cultural, property and legal officers evaluated seven proposals from interested parties. The preferred bid’s key offer includes:
- 25-year lease with no rent-free period or breaks
- No requirement for operational subsidy from the Council
- Council to receive rent of £6.75m over the term of the lease
- Commitment to invest £2.7m in the building over the term of the lease including refresh of the front-of-house areas
- Commitment to grow the programme from 335 productions in year 1 to 359 by year 3 and thereafter
- Commitment to maintain and enhance the mix of week-long musicals, ballet and drama
- Existing staff structure to be retained and all costs associated with staff transfer and protection of pensions to be covered
- Council to retain responsibility for the maintenance and repair of the roof and external structure
- Operator to have responsibility for the maintenance and repair of all other aspects including plant and machinery
- Commitment to retain existing volunteer programme
Cllr Bradbury said: “All of our bids were set against an agreed set of criteria. It was really important to us that the successful bidder had experience in operating similar theatres, experience in maintaining historic buildings and the financial strength to make this work.
“The fact that the Council could now see money coming in every year from the theatre will also allow us to tackle a maintenance backlog and to ensure the fabric of the building is maintained.
“The final shortlist came down to two reputable theatre companies who already have an existing relationship with the New Theatre. I’m happy to take this report to Cabinet to ask it to approve the selection of the recommended tenant.”
Cardiff Council’s Cabinet will receive the report on Thursday, October 10. If it agrees to approve the recommended tenant the Director of Economic Development will be given authority to finalise a lease with the theatre operator. Cardiff Council’s Economy and Culture Scrutiny Committee will discuss the report on Thursday, October 3.