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HAZLITT CLOSURE: Youth theatre and dance groups face move to leisure centre

Tuesday 24th November 2020

COMMUNITY groups and the Hazlitt Youth Theatre may be moved out of the Earl Street venue and housed elsewhere under Maidstone Borough Council's closure programme.

MBC, in need of saving money after a crash in revenues due tol the COVID-19 crisis, wants to take "control" of the Hazlitt and terminate the contract of the company which runs it day to day.

But the move to shut the premises completely would mean an uncertain future for the smaller community groups.
Confidential papers seen by Daily Downs Mail show that one option suggested by unelected council officers is to move them elsewhere.

Paragraph 1.27 of documents to the economic regeneration and leisure committee on November 12 reads: "Conscious of the impact this will have on the Hazlitt's community groups, officers have begun to search for alternative venues for the dance groups and the Hazlitt Youth Theatre.

"It may be possible for these groups to move to the Maidstone Leisure Centre or the Maidstone Community Support Centre in Marsham Street."

Groups have been using the facilities at the Hazlitt since August when Parkwood Theatres was legally allowed to reopen.

Paragraph 1.26 does concede: "In any mothballing (Hazlitt Theatre) scenario, the building could be used for other purposes which could include the continuation of the dance groups and youth theatre."

The Hazlitt Youth Theatre started in 1997 as a weekly workshop for 11-18 year olds but has developed into a spawning ground for talented youngsters to be noticed.

It now consists of nearly 200 members, aged 6-18 years. Singing lessons and dance classes have now been added to the schedule plus holiday workshops, summer shows,  a yearly musical, and magical Christmas shows.