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'Potentially the end of the Woodville' - Fears mount that proposed council cuts could close Gravesend theatre

PUBLISHED: 11:37 07 June 2017 | UPDATED: 15:51 07 June 2017

Woodville halls Theatre and Gravesend Civic Centre

Woodville halls Theatre and Gravesend Civic Centre

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Proposed cuts will be discussed on Tuesday

Fears are mounting that proposed cuts to Gravesend’s Woodville Theatre could see its closure, losing ‘the heart of the town’.

On Tuesday, Gravesham’s Tory cabinet members will meet to discuss cuts as the council tries to plug a £2.5million gap in funding by 2019, when government support grants will run dry.

The council is proposing £110,000 worth of cuts, which could include redundancies and reducing the theatre’s offer in the hope of boosting sales by cutting overheads while helping “retain facilities that are used by a wide variety of groups and organisations, as well as providing a well balanced programme of shows and events.”

Labour leader John Burden warned: “Making these sort of cuts is a step back, we’ve seen in the past if you improve the offering then more people come, but doing this instead could potentially bring the end of the Woodville.

“The theatre might not have enough seats for the big acts, but if we look at more interesting shows that bring in the community, then more people will come.

“If Paramount does ever happen, and with the development of Ebbsfleet Garden City, we need to keep that community offering for people in their town centre.”

Council leader David Turner suggested staff at the theatre could be replaced by volunteers following a successful trial scheme, adding there was “nothing at the back of the cabinet’s mind suggesting we need to close the theatre”.

Centre Stage Theatre Academy and Agency has run weekly classes afor four to 18-year-olds since 2010, putting on five shows at the theatre every year.

Founder Frankie Fitzgerald said: “Losing the theatre would have a massive impact on the whole community if that’s the case, we have 140 young people in our class and this is local to them.

“We want to stay in the Woodville, it’s more than a theatre, it’s a community hub and the heart of Gravesend.

“Without the theatre and the cinema, some of our children wouldn’t be able to see some productions, they can’t hop on a train to London, but they can visit the theatre that’s on their doorsteps.”

The Woodville Theatre opened in 1968 as part of Gravesend’s Civic Centre.

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