The DATA Committee had been trying for nearly two years to get the Derby City Council to undertake meaningful consultation with the amateur theatre and music community, through our Association, over major arts developments in the city including the future of the Assembly Rooms site. The Assembly Rooms, on the Market Place, Derby, has been closed since a fire in the adjacent car park in March 2014. One of our committee members, Tom Banks, asked a question on this at a Council meeting and was given an assurance by the Deputy Leader - Councillor Rawson - that we would be consulted over the design of a proposed entertainment venue on the Assembly Rooms site.
When the Council announced, in October 2017, that it had chosen to develop a multi-purpose Music and Performance Venue, aimed mainly at large rock concerts and comedy gigs, DATA mounted a strong, public campaign to try to persuade the Council to replace the Assembly Rooms with a lyric theatre and concert hall, based on the arguments set out in this letter.
We succeeded in getting the Council to carry out a proper public consultation exercise, asking for the public to express their views on four possible options - the Music and Performance Venue, a Lyric Theatre, a Hybrid Option (incorporating a flexible design capable of operating as a lyric theatre or music/entertainment venue), and Refurbishment of the Assembly Rooms. The Council announced in January 2018 that, having taken into account the results of the public consultation, they had opted for the originally proposed Music and Performance Venue. At the same time, the Council announced that it was committing itself to retaining the Derby Guildhall, the future of which had been in some doubt.
Although it wasn't ultimately successful, our campaign did result in DATA's profile being raised considerably, and we have received an assurance that DATA will be involved as a key partner in the design and operation of the new venue. Our Chair - Steve Dunning - is having regular meetings with the Derby City Council project team to make sure this assurance is adhered to. In addition, DATA has formed a panel of amateur experts who will provide informed input into the process.
At the AGM on 6 April this year, we had a presentation about the options for the replacement of the Assembly Rooms with a new performance venue. Basically, two options were being considered by the Council:
Well guess what? The Council have gone for the cheaper option 1, calling it a Music and Performance Venue, with no fly tower or other theatre provision and no proper provision for orchestral or choral concerts. See this link Music and Performance Venue option goes for Cabinet decision | Derby City Council Newsroom.
The DATA Committee have been trying for nearly two years to get the Council to undertake meaningful consultation with the amateur theatre and music community, through our Association, over major arts developments in the city including the future of the Assembly Rooms site. Indeed, one of our committee members, Tom Banks, asked a question on this at the last Council and was given an assurance by the Deputy Leader - Councillor Rawson - that we would be consulted over the design of the new facility. Tom has emailed Councillor Rawson twice to ask when this consultation will take place and has not received the courtesy of an acknowledgment let alone a reply. And the first our Chair - Steve Dunning - heard about the proposed decision was when he was contacted by a BBC Radio Derby reporter!
DATA has now submitted this letter setting out our objections to the preferred option, and asking the Council to abandon proposal and undertake further work on a Hybrid Venue incorporating a 1500 seat Lyric-style theatre and concert hall.
We're planning a peaceful mass demonstration outside the Council House from 5.15pm this Wednesday 4 October, prior to the start of the meeting. We're calling on the whole amateur theatre and music community in Derby - and indeed anyone who feels strongly about the new performance venue - to attend this demonstration. It is vitally important that we get as many people as possible at this demonstration to show the Council the strength of feeling on this issue. If we don't, this proposal could go through on the nod and then we're stuck with it! Remember, the Council don't have to take any notice of our letter if they don't want to. But if we get 100+ people out side the Council House, with good media coverage, then they will have to take notice. So please please, please get the message round urgently. People need only come for 45 minutes until 6.00pm - at that point, those who can stay will go into the public gallery to watch the debate.