Laughs in the Parks causing parking woe for St Albans theatregoers

THEATREGOERS faced the prospect of having nowhere to park to see a near sell-out play when the district council changed its mind about designated vouchers being distributed to them.

The final two nights of Hay Fever being performed by the Company of Ten at the Abbey Theatre tomorrow and Saturday clashed with Laughs in the Park, which features comedians Eddie Izzard, Dylan Moran and Reginald D Hunter and is expected to draw fans from miles around, most of them arriving by car.

Realising the potential clash, the Abbey Theatre was put in touch with the organiser of the comedy night in August and it was agreed that the organisers would issue parking vouchers to people who booked to see Hay Fever to enable them to park in front of the theatre.

But on Monday, the district council sent an email to the Abbey Theatre saying there had been a change of plan over the issuing of vouchers because no arrangements had been made to accommodate people using the Westminster Lodge sports centre.

That left the theatre with a major problem with Laughs in the Park starting earlier than the play and their audience having no designated spaces and facing the prospect of not being able to park anywhere nearby.

But after an eleventh hour meeting between the theatre, the district council and Leisure Connection, it was agreed that the parking vouchers could be issued – albeit so late in the day that the Abbey Theatre now has to foot the bill for printing and sending them out itself.

Paul Davidson, chairman of the Abbey Theatre, was critical of the council for not checking with the Abbey Theatre when they agreed to Laughs in the Parks leaving the theatre to take the initiative to try and resolve it.

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He pointed out that without parking vouchers, all the spaces in the car park would have been full and the Abbey Theatre audience, “severely penalised.”

Sports centre users will now be accommodated in spaces in the car park on the other side of Westminster Lodge.

A spokesperson for the district council said that they and the organisers of Laughs in the Parks had been in ongoing discussion with the Abbey Theatre with regard to parking provision on the two nights. She added: “Agreement has now been reached that will allow parking provision for patrons of the theatre and sports centre during this period.”