Amateur dramatics chairman calls for dedicated theatre in Brent

Robert Spolander says that theatre groups may have to leave the borough if a venue is not found

The chairman of a popular amateur dramatics group has called for a dedicated theatre – as uncertainty grows over the future of many of Brent’s arts centres.

Robert Spolander, an actor with the The Chameleons, who have just finished a successful run of their Christmas panto Sleeping Beauty at the town hall, said many theatre groups are struggling to find venues to perform in – driving many out of the borough.

Mr Spolander, one of two in-house writers for the group, said: “The borough doesn’t really provide dedicated facilities for its theatre groups. People have always supported us, but I think amateur dramatics companies will struggle until a venue has been found.

“It is really problematic.

“That is why I think it is important to have a dedicated theatre venue, not just for us but for the many talented arts groups in Brent.

“Used carefully, there is no need for it to be an arts white elephant – it could be run as a business. It could have a bar in it, and make money. With a bit of business acumen these things can work.”

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The Chameleons have struggled to find a venue large enough to perform in, with plenty of parking spaces for audience members. Their current home is a small church in Wembley, but if there is an event on at the stadium they cannot perform because of the traffic it attracts.

In the past they have ventured outside the borough for suitable spaces, but Mr Spolander says the group, which was founded in Neasden in 1966, want to stay in Brent.

But they may soon have to find a new site for their own Christmas productions as Brent town hall, the setting for their panto for many years, prepares to close its doors and move into the new civic centre in Wembley City in 2013.

While the group is in discussions with the council over hiring the new venue for productions, it is far from certain the same, affordable rates will be offered.

He said: “We have been very lucky over the years in terms of the town hall, but we don’t know what is going to happen when the town hall closes and the new civic hall opens.

“Brent council has said it wants us involved in the new civic centre.

“But what is really required is a purpose built theatrical space. This is something the council can’t promise.”

Last year, the Times reported how Brent Art’s Council (BAC), which runs the Stables Art Gallery, in Gladstone Park, Dollis Hill, had its �10,000 annual grant culled by the council.

Martin Redstone, BAC chairman, said the funding cut means the gallery is unlikely to last beyond this financial year.