Charity No 234800
Broxbourne Borough Council has now confirmed that their intention is not to reopen the Spotlight until autumn 2021. The Council issued a statement on 26 June 2020 which confirmed that the reopening will be delayed until it becomes financially viable \again.
The Council says that, despite its popularity, the Spotlight is subsidised by £150,000 in a normal year (even after ticket and food/drink sale receipts), and the Council projects a cost of £350,000 in the current circumstances. As a result, the Council says that it is “not sustainable” to retain the Spotlight staff when the venue is unable to trade. The Council has advised the Spotlight staff that their jobs are at risk of redundancy.
This is sad news for the Spotlight staff, for Hoddesdon and the Borough. Concerns are being voiced that the venue will not open again. However, there are some signs that this is not the current intention. The Portfolio Holder Report put to the Council at the 23 June Council meeting confirms that “a number of the planned shows and entertainment events have been rescheduled for 2021”. An email received from the Council has suggested that they are currently considering opening in April 2021 with cinema showings, a cafe and line dancing, with the live shows recommencing in August 2021. We also understand that Cllr Cocking has informed Charles Walker MP that the Council intends to bid for some of the Government’s support package for the arts in order to support the Spotlight and an earlier return (and we are writing to the Council to find out more about this).
However, there is always a concern for the future of a venue when a decision has been made to close it for such an extended period.
Once source of further concerns for the Spotlight’s future relate to the Council’s plans for the Brookfield Riverside Development. The Local Plan describes the concept for the central area as being “the new civic heart for Broxbourne [with] a new public square… proposed alongside it. The Council proposes to relocate its offices from the existing Bishops College site to Brookfield and is scoping out what other facilities could be located alongside it”. There is great support for a well-planned development at Brookfield Riverside, but it cannot come hand in hand with a withdrawing of facilities in other parts of the Borough.
The Spotlight is a real asset for Hoddesdon, Broxbourne and the wider area. It allows us to access high quality theatre, pantomime, films (including the shared productions from the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Productions), comedy, music and children’s events. It is the main performance centre for our three major community performing arts groups: the Broxbourne Theatre Company, the East Herts Operatic Society and the Hoddesdon Players. There is no other venue of this size in the Borough which would allow these groups to put on their shows.
Further, it is not just an events venue, it is a community facility and meeting place for other members of the local community. BArts have pointed out in their recent newsletter that Broxbourne and Lea Valley U3As hold their main meetings there (with attendances of between 150-200) – there is no other venue around with a similar capacity. Many other regular events and meetings for Borough residents are hosted here. It is unlikely that any of these groups will be able to meet while the Spotlight remains closed. It is a venue used for private functions (such as weddings), award ceremonies, and the Christmas fair.
It seems premature for the Council to decide now to shut the doors for such an extended period of time when it is not known what the necessary coronavirus measures will be later this year, let alone next. To lose this venue permanently would be a huge blow to Hoddesdon and the surrounding areas. It would reduce our town’s ability to attract others from elsewhere when Love Hoddesdon BID and others have done so much over recent years to increase footfall in the town.
Whereas the financial pressures on the Council are understood, it is also disappointing that the Council is simply keeping the doors closed and has not explored any other options to use the space for the benefit of the Borough’s residents while life cannot yet return to normal. The Spotlight has good outside space which is a real asset and could be used over the summer as a venue to host outside cinema showings, which could be achieved within social distancing rules. It could also be used as a venue to offer others a space to meet which is sufficiently large to offer socially distanced events. We are going to write to the Council to ask about the intention to bid for Government funding for the arts and what options other than full closure have been or are being explored.
Due to the concerns about permanent closure, a petition has been set up and is doing the rounds – you can sign it here.
6 July 2020