SUPPORT is growing for a community plan to save the Weymouth Pavilion from demolition.
Phil Say and his partner Louise Domoney have come forward with a plan to take over the running of the Weymouth and Portland Borough Council-owned theatre.
Mr Say, from Weymouth sound equipment hire firm Atlantic Audio, wants to buy the ageing building for a nominal fee and run it as a non-profit making organisation for the benefit of the community.
He would require a £450,000 subsidy for the theatre complex over three years but claims that he can save £260,000 on the council’s annual spend for keeping the theatre going.
His community rescue plan would save £120,000 a year, he claims, on what council chiefs say it would cost to demolish the building. The plan was handed out to councillors and supporters who attended a council meeting on Tuesday where councillors said the Pavilion was unaffordable to run and would have to close. A ‘Save the Pavilion’ Facebook group, which has been set up for supporters to back the plan, currently has 318 ‘likes’.
Mr Say said: “Because this is a community based project I hope the council can see this is not just someone trying to make a quick buck out of the building.
“It’s not some businessman coming in with a view to making money and making a quick profit.”
Mr and Mrs Say have called on people in the community to help them with the rescue plan.
Mr Say said: “We will need support from every corner, whether it’s schools or businesses with sponsorship and supply of materials.
“Everyone I’ve spoken to said they will be interested in doing something. It just all needs to be pulled together. I have worked in theatres throughout the UK and the rest of the world for over 20 years and have a good understanding of how they are successfully managed even in today’s difficult financial climate.
“I have been in contact with and have the full backing of local users.”
If a £100,000 arts grant continues, this money could be spent on the upkeep of the building, he said.
The Tourist Information Centre (TIC) would remain in the building and it could also be used to hold council meetings in, the plan states.
Campaigners who are fighting the Pavilion’s running say they think the plan is viable.
Cathy Page Nash, chairman of the Friends of the Pavilion support group, added: “I think Phil Say has got drive and enthusiasm and can make this plan work.
“We would like the Pavilion to stay because its auditorium is fantastic and it hasn’t been used to its full advantage.
“If we had a new smaller theatre it would eliminate companies like the Moscow State ballet coming to Weymouth with more than 900 people attending. Those sort of things do fill it.”
Janet Stockley, president of Weymouth’s WOW youth musical theatre, said: “I think WOW would be quite happy to back this plan. No-one else has got any ideas. With Phil Say you couldn’t ask for anybody with more knowledge of theatres.
“The finances are a darn sight better than what they are paying at the moment. I think we’re duty-bound to taxpayers to try this.”
Supporters backing calls to save venue
Brian Crump, whose father Harold organised variety shows at the Pavilion raising around £150,000 for local and national charities, is behind the campaign to save the theatre.
He said every show his father organised was a financial success, including in 1994 when a variety concert featuring local performers sold out four nights in a row.
“My father proved that if you put on the right kind of show, you will get an audience,” Mr Crump said, adding that a seaside town without a theatre was ‘unthinkable’.
Mr Crump, who is a member of the Friends of the Pavilion, told a meeting of Weymouth and Portland Borough Council this week that it was ‘not just a few local nostalgic theatregoers that want to keep the Pavilion open’ as he had gathered names in support of the Friends from across the country.
Councillor Ray Banham also addressed the council meeting in support of the Pavilion, saying: “The Pavilion is an asset to this community and it’s irreplaceable.”
Coun Banham said membership of the Friends of the Pavilion was rising on a daily basis, adding: “I have had phone calls, emails and text messages from people all over the country from artists and musicians. They’re absolutely astonished we’re thinking of getting rid of the complex.”