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.