PUBLISHED: 11:45 17 April 2008 | UPDATED: 13:12 06 May 2010
SIR, — Oh dear! Bob Chapple (Herts Advertiser, April 10) has really jumped the gun. He lambastes St Albans District Council for their plans for the Town Hall and calls it a wasted chance . Please, Mr Chapple, give us a chance. St Albans Arts is the local
SIR, - Oh dear! Bob Chapple (Herts Advertiser, April 10) has really jumped the gun. He lambastes St Albans District Council for their plans for the Town Hall and calls it a "wasted chance".
Please, Mr Chapple, give us a chance. St Albans Arts is the local arts group which will be managing a part of the building and we have only just exchanged contracts. Mr Chapple is perhaps unaware that it takes time to create a programme of activities, especially when there is a strong commitment to consultation. Why not pop into the Town Hall, Mr Chapple, to pick up one of our leaflets and make some creative suggestions. Comedy, jazz, exhibitions, folk music, film, children's shows, burlesque, tea dances, tango - we are aiming to please.
Until we have equipped the place and acquired the necessary licenses we are seizing such opportunities as we can. The chance to exhibit the "recycled" chair came our way and if Mr Chapple cares to read the comments in the visitors' book, he will see that some people at least are very appreciative. There will be other events as time goes by and we are hoping to make a significant contribution to this year's festival but it will certainly be many months before we are fully up to speed.
Your correspondent suggests that not long ago the place was buzzing. Does he refer to the tool sales and market research which were regular features? Worthy though those things are, surely this fantastic building deserves better. He says that there are enough art centres already. I wonder what he means? The Margaret Harvey is, as far as we know, the only city-centre public gallery.
Even on the café Mr Chapple seems not to be in full possession of the facts. It's true that there are many watering holes already in St Albans but this one will give the city something significantly different. Apart from anything else, it will offer dozens of different varieties of tea. Furthermore, with tables and chairs outside, it will bring new life to a part of the city which, other than on market days, is a bit of a wasteland.
Far from squandering a chance, the council has been very brave. Someone had to pay for the expensive refurbishment and it's the rental from the café and the arts operation which will eventually do this. Probably not too many citizens would welcome over one million pounds - the cost of saving the building - being added to the council tax burden. The rescue model is already being talked about as one which might save other dilapidated listed buildings in other conurbations.
St Albans Arts is a registered charity. We will be running commercial events - weddings, business functions, birthday celebrations and the like to cover costs and to subsidise arts events for the whole community. It's an exciting initiative which surely should be given every encouragement rather than a premature thumbs-down.
And if Mr Chapple or anyone else wants to help us on our way through sponsorship, we will be very pleased indeed to discuss the matter.
Chairman, St Albans Arts, Town Hall.