Strategy for the Royal Hall

tis  Exterior of Harrogate Theatre.  1011034c.
tis Exterior of Harrogate Theatre. 1011034c.

The Royal Hall will be available for community groups to use on 30 nights a year if its management is taken over by Harrogate Theatre.

The Theatre Board has outlined its strategy for running the Royal Hall if it is selected as the preferred bidder by Harrogate Council.

It promises community groups a guaranteed number of nights, and says it will hold prices for the next five years at £1,600 a night, £150 cheaper than at present.

There would be 200 performances a year in total in the Royal Hall, offering a mixed programme of national and international performing arts.

Harrogate International Festival, which uses the Royal Hall for the majority of its events will be classed as a priority client, to ensure its dates are protected.

A community panel will also be established to advise on programming.

There will be new all day access to the Royal Hall, and catering available on site. Schools would be encouraged to visit, with an interactive heritage museum in the building.

Theatre Board chairman, Coun Jim Clark said: “We have made a commitment to providing access to the general public to experience the Royal Hall. We might have volunteers giving tours. It is very disappointing that people can’t just go in when they want, and enjoy this fabulous building and have a coffee.”

He also stressed the importance of giving amateur groups the chance to use the Royal Hall.

“It’s the right thing to do, they have raised money in the past to restore the Royal Hall and they are the people who cherish it. We recognise the rich amateur culture in Harrogate, and it’s also good business sense too to involve them.”

The Royal Hall is currently run by the Harrogate International Centre, and it has been revealed it is losing £1,000 a day.

Harrogate Council will consider the Theatre’s bid to take on the management of the Royal Hall at its Cabinet meeting next Wednesday.

The theatre is proposing it takes on a 25 year lease and receives a grant from the council of £200,000 in year one, £120,000 in year two, and £100,000 each year after that.

If the bid goes ahead, the theatre will take over the responsibility for the Royal Hall from next April, but will start programming for both venues straight away.

Coun Clark said: “We are qualified to run the Royal Hall. In the last five years we have taken the theatre from the brink of bankruptcy to be the best community theatre in the North of England, delivering surpluses every year.”

The Royal Hall underwent a £10m refurbishment with the public part of the fundraising led by the late Lilian Mina. But there has been criticism that it has not been fully used since it reopened, and community groups have been priced out of the building.

Coun Clark hopes the community prices can be reduced even more, if the business plan is successful.

Coun Clark said: “This is what Lilian would have wanted, to see full use of the building, and it would have happened before now if she were still alive.”