Hidden subsidy

PUBLISHED: 12:06 24 September 2009 | UPDATED: 14:27 06 May 2010

SIR - I m surprised and flabbersmacked to read that St Albans council has been running the Maltings Arts Theatre for the past two years at an annual subsidy - i.e. loss - of £150,000 pa ( Cinema lifeline for cash-strapped theatre , Herts Advertiser Septem

SIR - I'm surprised and flabbersmacked to read that St Albans council has been running the Maltings Arts Theatre for the past two years at an annual subsidy - i.e. loss - of £150,000 pa ("Cinema lifeline for cash-strapped theatre", Herts Advertiser September 17) and is now considering measures to stem the bleeding.

An arthouse cinema might attract some new patrons and income, but if they pursue this option councillors should outsource to someone who knows the business and leave well alone.

Can a city - and district - the size of St Albans support three small theatres?

The answer is clearly "no"; losses incurred at the Maltings should be scrutinised in comparison with the successful not-for-profit (but not loss making) Abbey Theatre, almost entirely run by volunteers, and the newer Trestle Theatre.

If one adds the Alban Arena which hosts larger capacity spectaculars and pantomimes, it must be obvious to anyone without a vested interest that the Maltings Theatre cannot and should not be allowed to survive unless it can break even.

What to do with the space? How about the council encouraging Wilkos to move to the vacant former Woolworths store in St Peter's Street, collaborate with Herts County Council to enable the development of a new city museum, library and cinema in Civic Square and then - hey presto - significant space would be freed up for the almost mythical department store?

I'm not sure if this would be a vote winner or loser, but it must be worth a debate.

ROBERT HILL

East Common

Harpenden

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