EXCLUSIVE: The Hazlitt Theatre 'SAVED' after public outcry and Downs Mail fight
Monday 18th January 2021
THE massive public battle to save the Hazlitt Theatre appears to have been won, after a dramatic U-turn by Maidstone Borough Council.
The MBC leadership team wanted to sever the contract with Parkwood Theatres to save money in the face of lost revenues caused by COVID-19.
MBC pays Parkwood £243,000 a year to run all elements of the arts centre although it would have cost more than £100,000 annually to 'mothball' it.
The backlash from the public after Downs Mail launched an online Facebook campaign was immense and clearly stunned the MBC leaders.
Official recommendations now state: "That the Council continues to pay its agreed contract fee to Parkwood Leisure for the provision of services at the Hazlitt Arts Centre. . That officers continue to monitor Parkwood Leisure’s performance with respect to the delivery of the requirements of the Hazlitt Arts Centre Services Contract as defined by the Key Performance Indicators and make further recommendations in April 2021."
The issue of the Hazlitt's future was due before the council on January 26 where the recommendations will be finally voted on. Few believe it will go against the Hazlitt.
Campaigner and Tory councillor Jonathan Purle said: "It's basically a complete U-turn. It's a victory for the people and a victory for common sense. I certainly welcome this recommendation as it’s the complete opposite of what the Council proposed back in October when they wanted to fire the operator and key staff and mothball the building.
“This shows that we were right to have that decision over-turned and I’m really grateful to those councillors who voted with me and to all the theatre lovers who lobbied hard.
“It now falls to members on the Council’s Leisure Committee to scrutinise the detail of this report and ensure we have the best plans in place for bringing the Hazlitt fully back to life in 2021 and sustaining it for years to come.”
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